National Care Home Open Day

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

It was the second National Care Home Open Day on Friday last week — in the words of Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, an opportunity for care homes to:

“throw open their doors…welcome in the public and give them an opportunity to connect with residents and staff and see how some of the most vulnerable people in our society are cared for by some of the kindest workers in our economy.”

Enthusiastic support

At the Care Quality Commission, we are enthusiastic supporters of this event and on the day more than 250 inspectors and staff from other teams took the time to visit a local care home, including me.

Andrea Sutcliffe gives a radio interview on National Care Home Open Day

In the morning I was interviewed on local radio stations across the country promoting the day and then visited three care homes (Galsworthy House, Kew House and Queens Court) in South West London. I joined in some of the activities — decorating cakes, playing tennis (badly) and learning about some remarkable life stories. My best experiences were speaking with residents and their relatives.

Good news?

Promoting a good news story in adult social care isn’t easy and there were some challenging questions in the interviews, via social media and from my own team.

These challenges deserve serious consideration, so here goes.

Challenge one — what about the poor care?

When the general public hears about adult social care, it is usually about the poor care that does exist. Even on Friday, when there was so much emphasis on the positive role of care homes, three care workers were convicted and sentenced for the appalling ill-treatment of a resident in a North Somerset Care Home. I have written before about CQC’s commitment to tackling unacceptable care, taking action when necessary and holding people to account. That focus remains central to everything we do, and last week, as in every week, we were doing just that with homes and other services that needed it.

But we have over 17,000 care homes in England and across the country dedicated and kind staff with a passion for what they do provide care that well and truly meets the Mum Test. We rarely hear about that. As a consequence care homes remain shrouded in mystery and people are afraid of what might happen if they or a loved one move in. The opportunity to open the doors of care homes, demonstrate the difference they can make and strengthen links with the local community will, I hope, help to dispel some of the myths and make people more confident that good care does exist.

Our plans to rate services as inadequate, requiring improvement, good or outstanding will also help to reinforce that confidence.

Challenge two — isn’t it a lot of fuss and bother for residents?

Some people were concerned about the impact on residents of a day full of activity and visitors. They were worried about the potential for noise and disruption to upset people.

I hope all the care homes participating in the Open Day developed their plans involving and taking into account the wishes of their residents, ensuring that those who did not want to participate were properly supported and cared for.

But from my own experience and those of countless others, it was clear from the fun, laughter and conversations that residents were enjoying themselves too. As the NICE Quality Standard on the “Mental wellbeing of older people in care homes” sets out — participating in meaningful activity is vital. Creating and sustaining links with the local community can help to make this a reality. NICE has released a film about the quality standard which you can access here. We will use these standards on inspections to see how homes are supporting the mental well-being of their residents.

Challenge three — anyone can put a show on for a day!

Of course, that can be true but I hope the Open Day helps those lasting relationships between care homes and their local communities, encouraging volunteers for example to befriend older people who may no longer have family to visit them.

At the last home I visited, Queen’s Court in Wimbledon, I met two local volunteers who were clearly an important part of the life of the home. The home also runs events for the public and next week will be hosting an ‘Engaging With Dementia’ workshop led by Sarah Reed (one of our own experts by experience) and Claire Jeffries from the Alzheimer’s Society. These ongoing links with the community mean that the Open Day is not just a one-off event and I hope this is increasingly the case across the country — and again is something we will look for on inspections.

A privilege

One of the highlights for me was meeting Bob Boote, whose wife Vera is living in Kew House. He spoke warmly of the care and support his wife was receiving but also how the staff took good care of him too when he visited every day. We talked about his life, and although he didn’t give much away, he told me enough for me to find him in Who’s Who and to learn of his amazing achievements as a world leader in nature conservation, among other things. I asked how long they had been married — he said they dated it from when they first met “67 years 10 months and two days ago.” My heart melted.

Originally published at