Care homes briefing 193 – Key learnings for care providers from the Ombudsman’s report on care complaints
What is the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and what does it do?
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is an independent body responsible for investigating complaints about councils, adult social care providers (including care homes and home care agencies) and some local public services in a fair and impartial manner.
The Ombudsman released a Focus Report in March 2019 which addressed core areas from which complaints typically stem. A few examples include lack of clarity in respect of fees, and unclear billing practices, as well as lost property and money.
The report helpfully summarises lessons for care providers to learn from.
Learning lessons for care providers
The Ombudsman investigated many complainants concerning the lack of clarity of costs information given to care users and found that information was either not transparent or not accessible. It concluded that ‘for people to be able to make fully informed decisions about care, they must be given accessible, clear and honest information.’
Fee structures and funding arrangements for self-funding and state funding alike should be explained at the outset and changes should not come as a surprise. Moreover, all terms and conditions should be stated in the contract provided prior to commencement of the services. Should there be a need for contractual amendments to be made, fair warning must be given to care users.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recommends that providers take a proactive approach to mitigate the risk of unfair treatment towards some residents. The CMA’s examination resulted in some providers changing their approach to charging compulsory upfront fees or continued fees for extended periods after a resident’s death.
Billing and invoices
The Ombudsman recommended that invoices for care services should be delivered in a timely manner, should be accurate and properly reflect the services provided.
Protecting personal property
The Ombudsman endorsed the CQC guidance in respect of the need to protect care users’ personal property including valuable items and money.
Care providers should have robust systems in place to safeguard care users’ property. In the unfortunate event that items go missing, care providers are under an obligation to carry out thorough investigations to determine the loss and to put things right. Suitable insurance should also be in place.
Sometimes relationships break down between care providers and users. Therefore, terms for giving notice to leave a care home must form part of the contract.
Should conflict arise between the care provider/staff and the care user/family, care providers are expected to have open discussions to attempt to remediate the situation. Moreover, care providers should follow a set of procedures or guidelines when dealing with such conflicts.
There is an increased importance for care providers to keep comprehensive up-to-date plans and assessments, as well as carry out regular reviews to further the provision of good quality care.
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.