Plus ça change

The news emerging from Paul Burstow’s department over the weekend was that care homes would be rated in a Trip Advisor way by the residents or their relatives themselves is a welcome development, if not a little belated.

For what is seen as ground breaking and innovative by the Government has been common practice in the private sector right from when the first shop was opened. True, the transparency and immediacy offered by the internet has offered customers the ability to cast instant judgements on the service or product they receive, but word of mouth has always been a powerful motivating factor for buyers and sellers alike. The fact that such commercial rigour is now only being introduced into the care sector shows just how far the latter has to travel, or indeed that it has travelled back to its point of origin when the CQC introduced the star rating system to classify the standards of care.

Although consolidation has started in the care industry, it remains very fragmented, with thousands of different care homes and agencies vying for the attention of the buyers. With limited access to information now that the CQC has shelved both the star rating system and the excellence award, personal recommendation will become the lingua franca of the care industry after next year’s White Paper on care. There is undoubted merit in this, but it cannot and should not replace a rigorous inspection regime conducted by the CQC to ensure basic standards are being met. High quality providers of care will always conduct their own research to ensure standards are being met, and will receive most of their work from recommendation, but there needs to be a credible watchdog for the industry to ensure that poor qualitycare is systematically weeded out. So a care consumer feedback site is most welcome, but it will only replace what was running until a few years ago, albeit in a different form and it certainly won’t replace a watchdog with teeth.

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