Choosing the right nursing home

Nurse taking care of and elderly patient

People living in the UK are living longer than ever before - and one in four of us might require care, or nursing support, in old age.

Men and women currently aged 65 can expect to live to age 83.5 and 85.9, respectively (source: Office For National Statistics). So, it will come as no surprise that one in four of us might require care, or nursing support, in old age. It makes sense to know what the options are, if and when the time comes.

‘Care crisis’ in the UK

The BBC recently reported on the problems faced by families when a loved one has to go into care. Their reporter described choosing a care home as being "like playing Russian roulette."

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), recently completed its first wave of inspections under the new, tougher, vetting system introduced back in 2014. The results are concerning: more than 37 per cent of nursing homes failed inspection on safety grounds. The report also revealed major problems in the recruitment, and retention of, nursing staff. With more than 200,000 elderly and vulnerable people living in care homes, how many of these could be receiving substandard care – and what can be done about it?

Common problems in care homes

The CQC’s inspectors reported incidences of major safety failings in residential care homes and nursing homes.  Many incidents related to staff shortages, including cases where residents had been put back to bed in the morning as there weren’t enough members of staff available to attend to their needs. 
Other incidents of care failings included:

  • Falls in showers
  • Burns from uncovered radiators
  • Errors in administering medicine 

The CQC said that the failings were “completely unacceptable”. Over a third of nursing homes, and just under a quarter of care homes, failed inspection on safety grounds.

Choosing the right residential care or nursing home

So, if someone in your family needs care, how do you approach the difficult task of finding a suitable care home? Age UK has produced a useful checklist to help people do just that.

Always read the latest CQC report for the home you are considering. This should be one of your first steps, and is one of the most important. You can ask the home to provide one, or download a copy from the CQC website. The report for each home includes the answers to the following five key questions they ask of all care services, and relate to the most important needs of the residents:

  1. Are they safe? Are residents protected from abuse and avoidable harm?
  2. Are they effective? Do they offer care, treatment and support to achieve good outcomes and maintain a good quality of life?
  3. Are they caring? Residents should be treated with compassion, kindness, dignity and respect.
  4. Are they responsive to people’s needs? Care should be tailored to individual needs.
  5. Are they well-led? Is the management, leadership and governance of a sufficiently high quality to produce good outcomes?

When a report is filed on a home, the care provider must respond to areas of concern and produce an action plan to address the issues raised. The CQC will follow up on any action they have stipulated, and can carry out a further focused inspection if necessary.

It’s  also a good idea to check that senior staff are on duty at all times, and ask about other safeguarding factors such as the ratio of staff to patients and the rate of staff turnover. Speaking to staff and residents, enquiring about the daily routine, the standard of nursing care, the quality of the food, and the social activities on offer, also makes good sense and will help you form an impression of the quality of life it provides. It’s important to probe specific care provision that might be required, such as dementia care, or assistance with eyesight or mobility issues.

Here to help

When a family member goes into a care home, problems can sometimes arise with their care. So, if you have concerns, take advice from an expert. At Tees, we provide expert advice on dealing with the situation. We build our service around your needs, so whatever you are looking for, we’ll guide and support you every step of the way.

Call our care experts on 0800 013 1165 for a free, confidential, no obligation chat, or fill out our enquiry form and we will let you know how we can help.

Tees is here to help

We have many specialist lawyers who are based in:

EssexBrentwoodChelmsford, and Saffron Walden
HertfordshireBishop's Stortford and Royston

But we can help you wherever you are in England and Wales.

Chat to the Author, Rachel Benton

Senior Associate, Medical Negligence, Cambridge office

Meet Rachel
Rachel Benton, medical negligence specialist in Cambridge
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