Our undercover actors living in four care homes discovered many problems with the quality of care. So how can relatives know what’s going on – and how easy is it to complain when you suspect the worst?
Imagine the scene: you believe that the management in your relative’s care home is sub-standard. You decide to complain, but that complaint has to be made to the management.
As someone who writes about healthcare for a living, I know that it’s important to complain when things aren’t right. But as a relative I can totally understand why people might feel uncomfortable doing it.
I’ve had three grandparents in care homes. I saw my parents struggle over a number of years with trying to get numerous problems sorted.
Don’t get me wrong – most staff were brilliant and did their very best – but it’s very stressful when you feel like you’re the only person sticking up for a vulnerable relative. And you may worry that, if you raise any concerns, it’s your relative who will bear the brunt of any staff disquiet when you’re not there.
Which? investigates care homes
Our recent investigation put actors into four care homes to spend a week living as ‘residents’. They raised lots of worrying concerns in the four homes, as well as some good practice.
These included problems of poor nutrition, lack of activity and poor staff communication and skill, and even potential abuse by a staff member in one home. It made me wonder whether relatives knew about what was going on, and felt too inhibited to speak up, or hadn’t been taken seriously when they did?
Here the actors tell us about their experiences during their week undercover:
Where to go for help
The regulator in England, the Care Quality Commission, doesn’t have a remit to investigate individual complaints although it encourages relatives and residents to feed back direct.
If your relative is funded by the council, or if it’s about an abuse or ‘safeguarding’ issue, you can get the council involved. But if you’re paying for your own placement, your complaint will normally have to go direct to the provider.
The good news is that – since October last year – if you’re not satisfied with the home’s investigation, you can go to the Local Government Ombudsman and they can investigate your complaint. But you can normally only do this once you’ve complained to the home.
I’m concerned that the need to go direct to the home may put many relatives off making their views known, fearful of the consequences. I hope that the opportunity to go to the ombudsman if the complaint isn’t handled properly will make relatives feel more secure raising concerns – but what do you think?
What are your experiences – good and bad – of the quality of care in homes? Have you had difficulties making your complaint heard or have staff been open to discussing your concerns?