A quarter of Lancashire care homes are not up to standard, an Evening Post investigation has found.
In the past 18 months alone, 13 care homes and 345 beds have been lost across the county, meaning that 228 users were relocated to other practices.
But the quality of care people receive can often be a postcode lottery.
Our investigation into the state of care in Lancashire has found discrepancies in the level of care people recieve in different parts of the county.
In a report to Lancashire County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, it was found that of the 421 rated practices across the county more than a quarter were failing their service users.
Where we find poor care, we will use our powers to take action which can include removing a provider’s registration or even prosecuting them through a court of law.
More than 100 - 25 per cent - were told they require improvement in their services and nine - two per cent - were rated inadequate.
A total of 304 - 72 per cent - were rated good but just six were given the highest outstanding rating.
While two of the ountstanding care homes were in Wyre district there were none in Preston, Chorley, Ribble Valley, West Lancashire and parts of East Lancashire at the time of the report.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for adult services, Coun Graham Gooch, said: “We’re pleased that 74 per cent of Lancashire’s care homes are rated as either good or outstanding, but clearly we want to see that number increase steadily month by month as a result of improvement activities.
“CQC inspections are rightly very rigorous and help ensure residential homes provide the very best care possible. It is very tough for care homes to achieve a Good or Outstanding rating.
“When care homes receive Requires Improvement or Inadequate ratings, we work closely with colleagues from the CQC and NHS clinical commissioning groups to address the issues raised.
“Our specialised team of safeguarding staff work with managers on action plans that will help them to improve standards.
“When homes close, we act quickly to ensure people are relocated in suitable, alternative care homes as quickly as possible.
“We’re always looking to improve our support for private care homes. We’re currently considering ways we could provide extra leadership support to help prevent care standards falling and ensure fewer homes have to close.
“The residential homes for older people that Lancashire County Council runs are an important part of the care market. We’re investing in a £6m improvement programme to bring the buildings up to a higher standard and ensure they are good places to live for people with complex health needs such as dementia.”
Deputy chief inspector of adult social care for Care Quality Commission, Debbie Westhead, said: “Our inspectors visit every care home in Lancashire to ensure people are getting a good standard of care.
“We monitor, inspect and regulate, publishing what we find including giving homes a rating to help people make informed decisions about their care, or the care of a loved one,” she added.
“We set out what good and outstanding care looks like and we make sure the care that services are providing, never fall below a set of fundamental standards.
“Where we find poor care, we will use our powers to take action which can include removing a provider’s registration or even prosecuting them through a court of law.”
LCC care homes
As of October 2017, Lancashire County Council has placed 5,300 adults in long-term residential and nursing care, a number which is expected to rise to 6,000 by March 2020.
Of the 17 care homes run by the county council - two of which are rated as ‘requires improvement’ and 15 rated ‘good’ - the average weekly cost for someone receiving care in one of these homes is £630, with the average weekly income received from people paying for care being £518 per week for mainstream care and £549.85 per week for dementia care.
The self-funder in-house care rates are set to increase by £100 in April following a decision taken by cabinet in September.
Some ratings from CQC
South Ribble: Chestnut Grove Rest Home
Wyre: Cornmill Nursing and Residential Care Home
Wyre: Rossall Care Home
Fylde: Starr Hills
Lancaster: Beaumont College
Burnley: Burnley, Pendle & Rossendale Short Break Services
Preston: Grimsargh House Care Home
Preston: Swansea Terrace
South Ribble: Melrose Residential Home
Fylde: Chimes Residential Care Home
Lancaster: Greenroyd Rest Home
Lancaster: Morecambe Bay Care Home
Care home costs for pensioners
Data compiled by Prestige Nursing and Care has reveals that the annual cost of living in a care home in the north west is now £29,432 a year - up more than seven per cent since 2016.
The data also states that the average pensioner income has decreased by 2.2 per cent to £14,196, leaving a care cost shortfall of a whopping £15,236.
Managing director of Prestige, Jonathan Bruce, said: “It is alarming to see care home costs continue to rise so out of sync with pensioners’ incomes.
“With later life incomes stagnating, the rising cost of care will eat away at a growing number of families’ finances as they use their assets to meet bills for vital support.
“This reinforces the fact that we are facing a serious and prolonged social care crisis. Spiralling costs mean people must talk about how they will fund care for themselves or their loved ones earlier, and avoid being stung.
“The enormity of the challenges facing the sector means there is a desperate need for a political solution to the crisis.
“While fixing social care will not be easy, it can be turned around if policy makers set out a concrete plan that takes into account the need of patients, providers and councils. A free-fall in standards across the sector is unacceptable in one of the richest countries in the world.
“While the Brexit negotiations are dominating political discourse at the moment, the upcoming social care green paper offers an opportunity to put things right – hopefully the government will seize it.”
Trade union view: ‘a lack of investment in care adds pressure to staff’
Research from the trade union UNISON found that only 17 per cent of residential care workers feel that they have enough time to spend with residents without being rushed and compromising their dignity or well-being, with 88 per cent saying they didn’t have time for a conversation with residents.
Commenting on the inadequate performance and closure of some care homes in Lancashire, UNISON North West regional manager, Kevin Lucas, said: “Lack of investment in social care means that care home staff don’t always have the time or resources they need to provide quality care.
“Low staffing levels mean that staff are not permitted to spend time talking with residents – some of whom may not have regular visitors.
“Understaffing at night can mean that it is difficult to get all the residents into bed at an appropriate time. The result is that some residents can end up falling asleep in armchairs in the day room while waiting to go to bed.
“Employers sometimes fail to provide sufficient pads, gloves and wipes, and some staff end up buying their own to use at work. Care home staff are generally required to wear uniforms at work but sometimes they are only provided with one. The nature of the work means that uniforms get dirty, and long working hours make it hard for staff to get a uniform washed and dried between shifts, meaning staff can end up having to work in dirty uniforms.
“There is certainly a need for more investment in high quality care for care home residents. But we need to remember that most of the organisations that run the homes are seeking to make a profit.
“Private care providers can sell or close down care homes as they wish, and some are owned by private equity funds that require them to make big financial returns to service debt. There is a danger that extra money will not be invested in better care but extracted in higher profits.
“Where care home places are bought from the private sector there needs to be more demanding commissioning requirements to make sure that care and employment standards are high. And for the sake of stability and quality, there needs to be more care home capacity provided directly within the public sector.”