New Quality Mark Will Help Millions Choose Better Care

Millions of people in England will soon have a better way of judging the quality of care services they or their relatives and friends rely on. New star ratings (1-4) for all 28,000 care providers in England will let the public see at a glance whether care providers are excellent, good, adequate or poor.  Paying for a place in a care home can cost as much as £31,000 a year, sometimes more. The new ratings system will allow the public and local councils to see whether the fees charged by care providers match the quality of services they provide.

The public is now being consulted on the details of how the new system will work. CSCI’s newly appointed Chief Inspector Paul Snell said: “You may be a young disabled person who needs some help to get ready in the morning, or an older person choosing a care home, Or you may be trying to choose a care service for your mother, father, son, daughter, or other relatives or friends.

“Whatever your needs, having good, clear information about the quality of care services available in your area is vital.   Every month 100,000 inspection reports are downloaded from our website by people who want to find out about their local services. Our reports explain what these services do well and what needs to improve. But people also want to know more about the overall quality of a service compared to others.

“This is why CSCI is planning to introduce an overall quality rating – to give people a really easy way of comparing different services. If you are choosing social care services yourself, such as finding a home care agency, you can use our ratings to help you decide.

“If you use social care services and someone else, such as your local authority, is purchasing your care you can use these ratings to judge whether they have made a good decision for you. If you are a local council or NHS Primary Care Trust arranging social care services for people in your community you will have clear information to help you make the right decision.

“And managers and staff working in social care services will be able to use quality ratings to be sure they clearly understand the strengths of the service and where it needs to improve.”

Pending the outcomes of the consultation, the new ratings system is due to be introduced in mid-2007.

Information about the national minimum standards that each home meets is already publicly available via Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) inspection reports. But allocating each home a quality rating would build on this, giving people an easy-to-understand way of comparing services and empowering them to make a choice.

The new quality ratings, from one to four stars, will reward good performance while placing an onus on poorly performing services to improve.  It will also allow the public, and those commissioning services, to ensure they get value for money.

Under the new ratings system four stars would represent an excellent quality service, while only one star will signal a poor quality service.  There may also be an ‘E’ rating, which would mean that enforcement action was being undertaken against that service.

As well as a rating, all inspection reports will contain a graph that shows how well the service performs in seven main areas: quality of life, choice and control, making a positive contribution, personal dignity and respect, freedom from discrimination and harassment, improve health and emotional wellbeing, economic wellbeing and leadership and management.  These reflect the main outcome areas highlighted in the Government’s White Paper ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’.

The consultation lasts for three months, and closes on 14 November 2006.  Ratings will be given to care homes from mid 2007.