https://competitionandmarkets.blog.gov.uk/2017/06/22/are-care-homes-working-well-for-residents-and-their-families/

Are care homes working well for residents and their families?

Six months ago, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market study looking at issues affecting the 430,000 older people in care and nursing homes in the UK. We examined whether the industry delivering care for older people was working well, and treating residents and their families fairly. If not, why was this happening and what could be done to improve the current systems?

We’re halfway through the process and have published an update paper with our findings. As evidence gathering and analysis continues, we have set out what we’ve discovered and some ideas to resolve the situation.

We’ve opened a consumer protection case addressing concerns that some care homes may be breaking consumer law.

Consumer protection

We’ve spoken to many residents and their families, who have said they’re happy with the care they are receiving. However, we’re worried that some care homes may be treating residents unfairly, and that certain practices and contract terms might break consumer law. We’re examining a variety of issues but our consumer protection case is looking particularly at 2 of these:

  • We found that large upfront payments are sometimes charged. We’re concerned that these fees may come as a surprise to people, because they’re only mentioned when visiting the care home or signing the contract. Also, the purpose of the fee and what services are being provided in return may be unclear.
  • We’ll also investigate fees charged by some care homes for extended periods after a resident has died, even when the room has been cleared.

How the market is working

We’ve found that many people struggle to make decisions when they (or a loved one) need to move into a care home, which is often a stressful and upsetting time. People can be overwhelmed when trying to understand what care options are available, how their care is funded, how to find available care homes and choose the best one for them.

If someone ends up in an unsuitable care home, it’s often very difficult for them to do anything about it. Once there, families are often reluctant to move a relative, as it can be a disturbing experience. People also find it challenging to make complaints against those who care for them.

We’re also worried about investment for the future. Over the next 2 decades, as the general population gets older, the need for care homes will increase. However, we’re not seeing new homes being built to reflect this inevitability, especially ones for local authority funded residents.

What next?

The next phase of our market study is to develop recommendations to government and stakeholders to fix our concerns. We may also widen the scope of our consumer protection case as our work continues.

We’re inviting views on our update paper and want to hear from you - get in touch by email carehomes@cma.gsi.gov.uk. The deadline for responses is 5 July 2017.

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