Caring for older people

My letter to City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby regarding Leicester City Council’s review into Elderly Person’s Homes

Dear Peter

Re: Review into Leicester City Council’s Elderly Person’s Homes

As you will recall from my letter of the 8th June 2011, the above mentioned review caused a great deal of anxiety for a number of my constituents as well as their relatives.

I have no doubt that you shared my concerns upon learning of the feedback from residents, their relatives and other stakeholders. The Council’s previous consultation clearly shows that 80% of respondents either disagreed with the closure of homes or stated that independent living was not an option. Indeed only one person thought it was a good idea.

So I welcomed Leicester City Council’s move to extend and expand the consultation, particularly as it now incorporates the option of selling or leasing all or some of the homes as going concerns. I have been reassured by the use of one to one meetings with individual advocacy where needed as well as the other engagement methods used. I am also pleased that some testing of the market has taken place to explore the viability of transferring the homes to another provider. Now I urge you and your cabinet colleagues to respond positively to the findings of the second consultation.

I recently took the opportunity to once again visit each of the homes in my constituency (Abbey, Nuffield and Elizabeth House) in order to hear first hand from residents, their relatives and staff. A number of recurring themes were very prominent in the discussions I had.

First and foremost, independent care is clearly not an option for the majority of the residents that I met with. Whilst I will reiterate my long standing support for prevention and early intervention, it is absolutely clear that the residents I met with are going to continue to need care in a residential setting. Indeed, moving to a care home was, without exception, the last resort for the people I spoke with.

In the main, residents were happy and settled in each of the homes I visited with a strong sense that this would be their final home before they died. The prospect of moving and the associated upheaval caused a great deal of stress and anxiety for each of the residents I spoke with and many of the relatives feared that a move would hasten their death. I found this point particularly concerning and would be interested as to what research the Council have conducted in this area.

There was a widespread perception that alternative homes, particularly in the private sector, offered a lower standard of care. Whilst this is not necessarily backed up by CQC inspections and ratings, both staff and relatives offered anecdotal evidence to back up their concerns.  Before choosing Abbey, Nuffield or Elizabeth House, many of the relatives I spoke with had looked extensively at a number of alternative homes only to find that the standard of care was below what they deemed satisfactory.

Some residents and their relatives spoke of direct experiences of poor care in other homes, leading them to move to a local authority home in the first place. These experiences surely exacerbate the anxiety of having to move out of a secure and familiar environment.

Staff who had previously worked in other homes said that the resident to staff ratio was much better in a local authority home, as was the level of training and equipment. This is a particularly important observation as we know the level of training is directly linked to the quality of care. In order to identify that local authority run homes cost approximately 45% more than those in the independent sector, Leicester City Council conducted a comparative cost analysis. Can I suggest there is also a pressing need to investigate any disparities which may exist between local authority run homes and those in the independent sector as far as training, equipment and resident to staff ratio go. If this work has not been done, I urge you to commission it.

Going forward, it is essential for the Council to take on board the views raised in the consultation. On balance and with the right safeguards, I am probably in favour of Proposal 2 as this potentially offers the least disruption to residents and their relatives whilst enabling the Council to focus its limited budget, which has been significantly cut by the Tory led government, on preventative care. I do hope you will do what you can to ensure that this is a viable option.

In any case, I urge you to place the individual needs of each resident at the heart of your decision making and to personally ensure that each resident gets the level of support and assistance they require.

I would be very grateful if this letter could be considered a formal submission to the consultation.

As ever, thank you for your attention and I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes

Liz Kendall MP
Member of Parliament for Leicester West

CC: Councillor Rory Palmer Deputy Mayor, Councillor Mohammed Dawood Assistant Mayor, Councillor Manjula Sood  Assistant Mayor, Mrs Kim Curry, Strategic Director, Adult and Community Services