Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Residential Care Providers Outperform the NHS.

Residential Care providers outperform the NHS.

That is, of course, a blanket statement but backed up by the State of Care report published by the Care Quality Commission last week. The headline figure when the report was published was the fact that 15% of hospitals failed to meet the standards on making sure patients had the right food and drink and the help they needed, yet for residential care – i.e. non-nursing care - the figure was 11% of homes failing to meet these standards.

It was not just this standard that saw a difference. On meeting standards on respect and involvement 9% of NHS hospitals failed to meet this standard compared to 7% of residential care homes and on meeting standards of effective care, treatment and support 19% of NHS hospitals failed to meet the standards compared to 18% of residential care homes.

Obviously this is a very simplistic and selective view, in general, nursing homes were worse than hospitals and the complexity of health service provision is different from that of a residential care home.

Yet these figures should not be totally ignored and lessons must be learnt.

The health service must, for a start, consider what it can do to improve performance and what it can do too learn from the residential care providers which outperformed it in a number of areas. Why are residential care providers better at providing food and drink, what lessons can be learned in improving respect and involvement. There has to be a system in place where the NHS can draw on the best practice of social care to improve its performance with its patients.

There must also be a look at the significant difference in performance between nursing and non-nursing residential care where the contrast is quite startling. In nursing homes 20% failed to meet the nutrition standards, 15% failed on respect and involvement and 28% failed on effective care, treatment and support. In just about every standard nursing care fell behind residential care the most surprising of which was management of medicines where 33% of nursing homes failed to meet the standard compared to 26% of residential homes – surprising because nursing care should have trained nurses on their staff whereas this is not necessary in purely residential care.

The Care Quality Commission report gives us a snapshot of the state of care but we need now to act upon its findings and this is where we need national leadership to make improvements.

The fragmented nature of social care provision, around 25,000 different nursing and residential care homes providing services across 152 councils with social services responsibilities, means that there is little coordination over the country to draw together what lessons can be learnt from the report, how to implement the changes needed and how to engage with the vast myriad of providers to ensure ‘best practice’ becomes the social care standard.

The fragmentation of social care means that those at the top can frequently pass the buck and abrogate responsibility but with the increasing need for social care as the population ages and the increase in the complex needs of social care users we, as a nation, need those in Westminster to take full responsibility for the services provided to the vulnerable in the country.

The route to improvement is learning, learning where the failures are and learning the best way to decrease those failures. The system is never going to be perfect but we need national leadership to reassure the public that all possible action is being taken to ensure health and social care provision the best it can be and the lives of ALL those who need care services are paramount in that.