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Inadequate care must be exposed and acted upon

The examples of poor care revealed by care home inspections in November are genuinely disturbing.

This is an issue that touches us all, or will. No-one would be willing to trust the care of an elderly relative to a home where there was no intervention when residents suffer from bedsores (as happened in one Girvan establishment) or choose it for themselves.

Similarly it is unthinkable staff would simply accept a situation where a resident sleeps through many meal times and, as a result, suffers rapid weight loss, as happened in the same home. Other complaints upheld show homes tolerating undernourisment or dehydration or simply lacking the staff trained to deliver adequate care.

All of this is shocking, but it needs to be balanced against a recognition that the care in many homes, whether run in public, private or charity settings, is very good. Owners and managers of responsibly run care homes despair of the way poor care damages perceptions of the whole sector.

But, for that reason, the rise in complaints over the care of vulnerable and older people is in some ways welcome. This seems counter-intuitive but the increase in complaints can be seen as evidence more people are demanding higher standards and taking an interest in the levels of care provided to relatives.

It might also reflect a greater confidence on the part of the public that, if complaints are made, something will be done.

The Care Inspectorate and its predecessor bodies have historically been guilty of leaning too far in the direction of encouraging poor homes to improve and not placing enough emphasis on enforcement to deliver that improvement.

There are signs that the watchdog is changing its approach. Where possible, all of its visits are unannounced, allowing homes to be assessed "warts and all" - very much in response to public demand.

Meanwhile, the enforcement action being taken against homes in Jedburgh and Girvan follows similar robust treatment of failing homes in Edinburgh. Watchdogs need teeth and the inspectorate does appear to be baring them.

As The Herald recently reported, such action can lead to problems, with concerns over the quality of care leading to hundreds of beds being unable to be allocated in Edinburgh.

Yet that is surely preferable to the alternative of placing vulnerable people in settings known to be unsafe or unsatisfactory.

A greater willingness to publicise critical reports, to name and shame, is beneficial, helping persuade the public that it is worth complaining and helping drive up standards in the industry.

So, while condemning the poor standards exposed, we should give a cautious welcome to the fact that more complaints are being lodged with the inspectorate.

However, the under-funding of care is also an issue. Good care costs, and councils that often commission such services, must also take heed of these complaints. They, like the homes themselves, must respond and address the issues raised.

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