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.


Complaints

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

Fees

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.

Giving notice

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.

Care planning

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

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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