A new study by Healthwatch England compiles views and experiences of those who live, visit and work in care homes across England and reveals wide variation with great care contrasting with homes failing to get the basics right for every resident.
Healthwatch England urges homes to be more open to using feedback from residents, relatives and staff to help drive improvement.
Work by Healthwatch Coventry has helped to inform this work. Healthwatch Coventry visited 11 care homes, spoke to 66 residents, 49 staff and 17 visitors. Overall, local Healthwatch across England visited 197 care homes across 63 different local authority areas between January 2016 and April 2017, including Coventry. This was to find out what day to day life is really like for many of those living in care homes.
The Healthwatch report outlines key next steps for care homes and how feedback can be used to identify a whole host of small, low cost changes that ensure all residents feel ‘at home’.
Healthwatch Coventry care home visits resulted in improvements including:
- Walls being painted and new furnishings eg a new colour scheme making the themes of units in a large home clearer for residents to help them recognize where they are
- New activities on offer for residents
- Better use of and access to gardens
- New ways of communicating information to residents
- A new informal meeting for staff to discuss any issues or recommendations
Issues Healthwatch Coventry found involved environment, activities, and dementia friendly design such as:
- Not enough activities for residents to do or one to one contact from staff
- Gardens not being looked after or accessible to residents
- Lack of simple dementia friendly design features eg labeling taps hot and cold; labeling room; contrasting colours in decor
- Bad smells
- Equipment stored in the wrong place
- Maintenance jobs not completed
Although many of the reports produced by local Healthwatch organisations raise concerns about people’s experiences, the majority of care home managers have responded to the feedback very positively, often agreeing to review processes and making changes very quickly.
Ruth Light Healthwatch Coventry Chief Officer, said:
“There is variation in the quality of care in local care homes and in the willingness of management to take on board the suggestions we make when we look at the services from residents’ point of view. Care home residents should have day to day choices and things to occupy their time that they like to do. Our work helps to put forward residents’ point of view and bring about often simple changes to make life better”.
Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, said:
"It’s not easy running a care home, particularly as the sector as a whole is trying to get to grips with the dual challenge of managing rising demand with limited resources. But getting the basics right doesn’t have to cost the earth and should be the least we should all be able to expect for our loved ones and ourselves should we need care support.
“Care homes are not institutions, they are people’s homes, and the only way to ensure they feel like this for residents is to put them at the heart of shaping how the care home runs. Healthwatch is here to help with this and I would urge anyone who wants to share their experiences, good or bad, to get in touch.”