Care home owner’s £3,000 bill to reverse critical inspection report

A DERBY care home owner says he was forced to take legal action to overturn an inspectors’ assessment of his business.

Allen Heath, who runs Farriess Court, in Alvaston, said he was criticised by the Commission for Social Care Inspection for failing to follow rules over drug security, residents’ privacy and staff employment.

The commission initially gave 26-bed Farriess Court a rating of “adequate” but Mr Heath spent £3,000 challenging the findings through a solicitor, following which the commission revised its assessment to “good”.

An angry Mr Heath said: “We’ve been vindicated but at what cost? I’ve spent £3,000 in legal fees and it was demoralising for staff, some of whom have worked here for 20 years.”

The commission says it gives every care home owner the chance to dispute findings of inspectors.

Mr Heath’s solicitor, Stuart Marchant, said he was dealing with up to five cases a month in which assessments of care homes by the commission were challenged and successfully overturned. Mr Marchant said he believed hundreds more homes were not appealing about their inspections because they did not want to take on the regulator.

It is the second time in just over a month that the commission has come in for criticism in Derbyshire. In February, an investigation by the Evening Telegraph revealed that care home inspection reports on the commission’s website were months out of date.

A commission spokesman said: “After an inspection report has been compiled, the commission asks providers to review our findings within a 28-day period and alert us of any dissatisfaction they might have with the report.

“If they are dissatisfied, we encourage them to contact their inspector to discuss the areas they are unhappy with.

“If a provider wants to seek legal advice during the appeal process, then they are absolutely entitled to do so, although we would always encourage them to come and open a dialogue with us first.”

But Mr Marchant said: “We often see care homes letting criticisms go because they don’t want to challenge the commission and make life difficult for themselves.”

The commission was launched in April 2004 as the single independent inspectorate for all social care services in England.

Five years later, it is set to be absorbed by the newly-formed Care Quality Commission, which will also take over two other health and social care watchdogs, the Healthcare Commission and Mental Health Act Commission.

Mr Heath said that had he not appealed against the commission’s finding, he could have lost thousands in extra funding awarded to high-ranking homes by Derby City Council.

A spokesman for the authority said it gave an extra £5 per resident, per week to homes rated “good” and “excellent” compared to those rated “adequate”.

So 26-bed Farriess Court will be eligible for a maximum of £6,760 a year, thanks to its higher rating.

There are 104 nursing and residential homes in Derbyshire which have been given “poor” and “adequate” ratings which could benefit from thousands of pounds if their ratings improved.

Mr Marchant, of London firm Ridouts, has represented more than 60 care homes in the past two years which have appealed against their inspection reports.

He said: “We see a lot of these cases, dealing with between three and five a month, and with the majority we are able to get them a better rating.”

Mr Heath said: “This could be happening to a lot of care homes that are worthy of more funding and have bust a gut to make things right.

“I don’t ask for top-up fees from my residents, so I am reliant on a good rating to make the home eligible for extra funding from the council.”

And he argued that it was necessary to pay out for a solicitor in order to get through the appeal process. He said: “It’s a very difficult process to go through because you have to be able to back up what you are saying with the facts.”

The commission told the Evening Telegraph it could not comment specifically on the Farriess Court case.