Opening the door on inspections

Guest blogger Annette Bruton, Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate, explains how the organisation is developing its approach.

Annette Bruton

Annette Bruton

Almost everyone in Scotland will use a care service at some point in their lives.  That simple fact means everyone in the country has an interest in the quality of services provided across the Scotland right now, from nurseries to care homes, and it means the question of what standards we expect will become an ever more important one in the future.

As Scotland’s regulator for care services we have a duty to ensure everyone receives the best possible care; which means care that is safe, compassionate, meet people’s needs and respects their rights.  But there’s more to our role than that, because not only do we have a duty to inspect and regulate, we also have a duty to inform people about the work we do.

Fundamental to the principle of respecting a person’s rights is respecting their right to choose. And people can only make informed decisions if they have all the information they need.  That’s why we have now embarked on a new way of highlighting some of the things we find out through our rigorous inspections.  For example, we now highlight poorly performing services on our website and to the media, as well as doing the same for services which genuinely excel.  We believe this will have the double benefit of helping everyone understand what good and bad care looks like; and that in turn, it will drive standards up across the board.

On top of that we have just launched an innovative new way to communicate some of the other information we gather.  The Hub is our new online resource aimed at Scotland’s 200,000 care workers. It’s a way for us to highlight good practice, current policy, and to tell the world about some of the innovative care which is being provided in Scotland. I urge you to give it a look at

Telling people about what we do and the information we gather is crucial, but that’s only useful if the work we carry out ‘in the field’ is robust, transparent and trusted.  That’s why we have changed the way we carry out inspections and now have dedicated inspection teams for the different types of services we inspect.  Put simply our inspectors who are experts in early years provision inspect nurseries, and those with corresponding experience of care services for the elderly inspect care homes for the elderly.

If that seems simple, it’s because it is.  But we want to go further, to ensure our inspection activity is as robust as possible. And that’s why we recently launched a bid to recruit more inspection volunteers.  Volunteers are members of the public with a genuine experience of care, whether that’s from using a service themselves, or because their loved ones have accessed care. We believe that having people with a personal experience of care working alongside our expert inspectors during an inspection means we get an even more accurate picture of any given service.

To find out more about the work we do, and to get involved as a volunteer inspector, log on to our website or get involved or by calling 0845 6009527.

Volunteer eyes and ears for care watchdog

In a week when failing care homes again hogged the headlines, the Care Inspectorate announced plans to recruit volunteer eyes and ears to help drive up standards.  Doug Anthoney reports.

Woman with home carer

The Care Inspectorate, Scotland’s care ‘watchdog,’ is recruiting 100 members of the public to act as lay assessors.  This would more than double its current volunteer contingent of 70.  The role of lay assessors is to talk to residents and their families to find out how they feel about the care they are receiving

We welcome the increase in scrutiny that extra lay assessors would bring. But their involvement has to be more than just a ‘box-ticking exercise.’ It’s a stressful time when people make the decision to move into a care home, and many have concerns about how they or their family members will be treated and whether their rights, preferences and lifestyle choices will be respected.  It is important that people have contact with the Care Inspectorate, are listened to and that the care home will be held to account if anything goes wrong.  We hope that this will be a step towards the end of the terrible abuse stories we have heard over the last few years.

Meanwhile we’ve watched the crisis at Pentland Hill unfold with increasing alarm.  Police are now investigating four deaths and a number of additional complaints have been made by family members.  We urge the agencies to be as quick and rigorous as possible in their investigations, so that lessons can be learned and residents and their families get satisfaction.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  This post is part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Fish and Chip paper’ article series reporting the hot topics Age Scotland has been discussing with the media each week, and the Charity’s response.

Lifting the lid on care homes

This week the Care Inspectorate issued a hard hitting report about Pentland Hill Nursing Home in Edinburgh. Age Scotland’s Doug Anthoney responded.

Playing dominos

An unannounced inspection in July, which followed a significant number of complaints within the past year about the Home, revealed a catalogue of failings.  The Care Inspectorate has issued a formal improvement notice, and intends to work with the nursing home provider, Bupa, to support them make the necessary improvements.  New admissions have meanwhile been suspended.

We’re appalled that Bupa has allowed management to crumble at Pentland Hill and that; as a result, the quality of care for older people has fallen below the minimum acceptable standard.  The Care Inspectorate is to be commended for uncovering this mess; however we believe that the public will be left wondering what penalties Bupa could, or should, incur for its failures.  The Inspectorate has the power to shut down a failing nursing home, but circumstances would have to be dire in the extreme for this to be in the best interests of residents.  So what’s the solution?  Fines would have to be substantial to focus the mind of a large care provider, and perhaps still be far less than the cost of reputational damage.  We’d be interested in views on this.

This week we were also asked to comment on new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggesting older women are often missing out on the benefits of the internet. Just over a quarter of women aged 75 and older, compared to two in every five men in the same age group, have ever been online.

There are great opportunities for older people online, we said, from keeping in touch with friends and family through Skype to saving money on home energy.  Our Itea and biscuits week in September is an example of what we are doing to help more people to take up these opportunities.  However there always be some who can’t, or prefer not to, go online and their wishes and needs should be respected.  That’s why we’re supporting the Keep me Posted campaign which calls for service providers to ensure people who still want written bills, statements and correspondence aren’t marginalised.