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Elderly patients playing 'Russian roulette' as care home quality declines

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32% of care homes are 'inadequate' 32% of care homes are 'inadequate'

Nursing homes face a ‘tipping point’ as one in three failed Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections into adult social care provision.

Of the 4,000 nursing and care homes – looking after elderly patients – that the CQC reviewed, 32% received an ‘inadequate’ grade while a further 37% were given warnings to improve safety.

Inspections came as part of a wider project looking at adult social care, which saw inspectors go into care homes, as well as residential homes, care in people’s own homes, Shared Lives schemes and supported living services.

READ MORE: Hunt's overhaul of support for the elderly must be 'meaningful'

Nursing homes for the elderly at the end of their lives came off the worst in the overall picture, while adult social care was seen to be improving in general across the country in the 2014-17 period.

Visits to care homes revealed medicines were not being administered safely, alarms were going unanswered and residents were not getting help to eat or use the toilet. Some residents were being woken up by night-shift care workers, washed and then put back to bed, apparently for the convenience of the staff.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, described choosing a care home for an elderly relative as a game of ‘Russian roulette’ due to the inconsistencies in care quality across institutions.

READ MORE: Elderly care becomes a priority

She said: ‘Taken as a whole, this report is a graphic demonstration of why older people desperately need the government to follow through on its commitment to consult on proposals for strengthening social care later this year.

‘The report also makes a compelling case for why considerably more investment in social care is required.’

The CQC reviewed 24,000 social care services in England, of which 21% were marked ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. Some services were inspected more than once in the three-year timeframe and were downgraded from their initial mark.

CQC chief inspector Andrea Sutcliffe said: ‘Adult social care is approaching a tipping point as more people with increasingly complex conditions needing care but in a challenging economic climate, facing greater difficulties in accessing the care they need.

READ MORE: District nurses could take on the care of elderly patients

‘The danger of adult social care approaching its tipping point has not disappeared. If it tips, it will mean even more poor care, less choice and more unmet need for people. Quality must be at the heart of the long term reform of social care in England.’

Ms Sutcliffe committed the CQC to more investigations which will come with a ‘relentless focus on quality’ and that regulation will become ‘more targeted, risk-based and intelligence-driven over the next few years’.

The Conservative party, who currently hold government, promised a green paper on the future of adult social care would go to Parliament in their general election manifesto.

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