Scotland’s care homes show healthy improvement through ‘period of uncertainty and change’

According to findings from Scotland’s Care Inspectorate, the majority of care homes with service issues raised at inspection are moving in the right direction despite a turbulent time for the sector.

Published this week, the ‘Care Inspectorate annual reports and accounts’ records that 77 per cent of issues raised in earlier inspections have subsequently been answered by providers, while the body itself is so far performing well in meeting its budget obligations, completing 99.1 per cent of planned inspections over 2011/12 – with 68 per cent of those unannounced.

Chair of the Inspectorate, Professor Frank Clark, believes the body has made great strides in its short lifetime since it was formed in April 2011.

He writes: “Without question, managing change and transition and getting a brand new, national organisation up and running smoothly and effectively are significant challenges, but I believe we have met these and met them well. We now have the solid foundation we need to build on our work in years two, three and beyond.”

Chief executive Annette Bruton is similarly pleased with the body’s performance, writing: “Of particular note in our inspection programme was the increased frequency of inspection in care homes so that each care home will be inspected annually. We also carried out inspections of all regulated care services and strategic inspections of public bodies in relation to social work, social care and child protection. Alongside delivering our core business of inspection and regulation we have made efficiencies and can demonstrate that we add public value.”

On the challenges ahead she writes: “We need to get the balance right between regulation, inspection, assurance and improvement. Providing assurance to service users, the public and stakeholders about the quality and effectiveness of care services in Scotland is at the heart of what we do. This year we are developing new ways of working to ensure that we support improvement and raise standards through our inspection programme.”

The performance is particularly satisfying for the Inspectorate considering the anxiety caused throughout the sector by the collapse of Southern Cross. At the time the UK’s largest care home provider, the company operated 99 facilities in Scotland, putting more than 5,000 individuals at risk if the speedy registration of new owners could not be completed.

Professor Clark feels all parties involved performed well in the face of disaster, writing: “We worked in partnership with the Scottish and UK Government, Local authorities and service providers so that our newly formed National Registration Team was able to fast-track the registration of new owners. We successfully registered all but three of these new services within two months, to minimise the impact on people served by these care homes.”

He concludes: “The tremendous effort of staff at all levels has carried us through a period of uncertainty and change. We have been, and will continue to be, committed to driving improvement and innovation in Scotland’s services and in our own work.”

Looking forward, the SCSWIS (Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland) aims to maintain a commitment to inspections that are “intelligence-led, risk-based, transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent”. While the body is also preparing to launch its own National Enquiry Line (NEL), to serve as a more simplified complaints procedure that will make it easier for service users to have their say.