Health

Care homes 'lack named managers'

Elderly woman in a wheelchair
Image caption Fewer inspections have taken place this year

Over 2,000 care homes in England have no registered manager, according to figures from the regulator.

The Care Quality Commission data showed 2,200 of the 24,000 homes in England had no-one named as being in charge.

Homes should have registered managers who are legally responsible and accountable for the running the home.

The charity Action on Elder Abuse, which last month found 3,000 homes without managers, said the situation was "appalling".

Administration problems

It had obtained data under the Freedom of Information Act.

Gary Fitzgerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours the numbers of homes without a manager demonstrated a "frightening picture of the state of residential care in England".

He added: "The registered manager holds a crucial role in establishing and maintaining standards of quality and to have so many homes with requirements of this type is appalling".

And he said he had never before heard such concern from care home providers about the CQC's speed in registering managers.

"I'm hearing too many care providers now questioning whether the CQC is fit for purpose.

"There is no doubt that there is a percentage of cases where home managers aren't being registered because of the slow process within the CQC."

Indeed, care providers claim the high number of unregistered managers is down to slow administration on the part of the CQC, after it implemented a new registration process last October.

Oliver Thomas, director of Bupa Care Homes UK, which has around 265 care homes in England said: "The CQC system can be slow to register managers who have been in post for a while.

"I am still seeing registrations being returned to me from October last year."

Care home provider Barchester told You and Yours that in some instances it had taken the CQC more than five months to register a manager. It currently has 29 posts awaiting registration.

All the care providers contacted were keen to stress that there were managers in place, even if they were not registered.

Inspections

Sarah Ramamurthy from Four Seasons Health Care said: "Not having a manager registered with CQC certainly does not mean the home is - or was ever - without a suitably qualified and experienced manager in place.

"It merely means the documentation had not been completed and processed at that time."

But the CQC's Director of Operations Amanda Sherlock told You and Yours she did not accept delays on their part were the reason for so many unregistered managers.

"It is the provider's responsibility to have a registered manager. It is the CQC's responsibility to make sure registration is timely and robust.

"Last October, at the point of transition into the new process, there were some backlogs. We have worked very hard to clear them and are now processing the vast majority of applications within eight weeks."

"Our performance in terms of registration is as strong as any predecessor registration authority."

However, she admitted there were still 2,200 homes today without a registered manager.

And it appears the new registration process has had other unintended consequences.

The research by Action on Elder Abuse also revealed that the number of inspections of care homes by the Care Quality Commission has fallen significantly.

The CQC confirmed there were 10,856 inspections of care homes in England between the 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010. In the same period the following year there were just 3,806 inspections - a fall of 65%.

Gary FitzGerald, of Action on Elder Abuse, said the CQC had been warned that reducing the number of inspections would put residents at risk.

"Their inspectors told them the process was placing people at risk; we told them, and care providers told them."

"They continued along this process and what worries me is they didn't tell the public they were doing that and they gave the impression all was OK with inspections."

Amanda Sherlock said it had been left with no other choice but to divert resources into what she described as the "very challenging" re-registration process.

But she said face to face inspections of care homes are now increasing.

"We're now seeing our inspection numbers go up month on month by a third and I'm absolutely committed to achieving a figure of a 1,000 a month by the end of this financial year."

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