Care home briefing 87 – Pressure on care home fees

Given the public sector budget deficit, it is perhaps inevitable that local authorities will continue to seek to minimise their expenditure by seeking to reduce cost spent on care home fees in the private sector.

Some authorities have already utilised the services of “cost consultants” to put pressure on care home operators. If you receive requests for information about fees, it is important to obtain legal advice on whether you are obliged to provide this as disclosure is usually followed by an attempt to reduce fees.

Another obvious option for local authorities to consider will be to move (or threaten to move) residents from one home to another in the hope of effecting savings. However, when this arises, local authorities need to take account of the implications of the Human Rights Act. The Act will apply when such transfers are in contemplation and we have previously reported on recent case law which sets out the court’s approach.[1]

Although the recent case law has tended to address the legal situation where residents are being moved out of a care home that is to be closed, the cases also provide a useful guide to the issues that will need to be considered if there is a move for cost related reasons. In particular, the cases may assist care home operators who need to argue that a move would breach a resident’s human right.

  • The impact of the proposed move should be carefully assessed for each resident taking account of the loss of relationships with familiar staff, any increased distance from friends and family and the detrimental affect of moving
  • All steps consistent with experience and best practice should be taken to avoid unnecessary risk and trauma to individuals facing transfer.
  • The authorities should do all that could be reasonably expected of them to avoid any real and immediate risk to the life of those being transferred.
  • Authorities should do the best to minimise identifiable risks to residents. Careful planning will form an important part of this.

Although there have been several previous attempts to suggest that moving residents should be prevented per se because of the increased risk of mortality, that arguement has not been successful. Nevertheless, the Court has clearly indicated that local authorities must undertake careful assessments and all appropriate steps to minimise the risk to transferring residents. If that has not been done, then a transfer is more likely to be open to challenge.

Ultimately the Courts have acknowledged that local authorities are entitled to exercise their discretion in deciding how to utilise their budgets, balancing the interests of an individual and the community. Undertaken properly, movement of residents to achieve better value for money is permissible, but only after an authority has taken individualised measures to protect, as far as possible, the residents being moved.

Andrew Parsons
E. andrew.parsons@rlb-law.com
© RacdliffesLeBrasseur


Footnote
[1] See RadcliffesLeBrasseur Care Home Briefing No: 83


Disclaimer

This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur 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.