ALMOST everyone in Scotland will use a care service at some point in their lives. Whether that might be a nursery, childminder, a care-at-home service or a care home, more people of all ages and experience, background or need, are coming into contact with care. The Care Inspectorate wants that experience to be the best it can be, meeting the needs, rights and choices of the individual.

As Scotland’s social care scrutiny and improvement body, it is the Care Inspectorate’s role, first, to inspect care services and report on the quality of care people experience and, secondly, to champion good care whenever we encounter it across the thousands of inspections we carry out each year.

We also work closely with care providers to support them to improve where things are not reaching the standards everyone in Scotland has a right to expect. The way we undertake our work is changing as we focus on strengthening relationships with community planning partners, health and social care integrated joint boards, commissioners, service providers and, most importantly, people who experience care, their families and carers, focusing on working together to ensure good quality care for everyone.

Now, perhaps more than ever, is a crucial time for anyone involved in care to make their views known on what matters to them when they access, or work in a care setting.

The Scottish Government has put out for public consultation new national health and social care standards (the consultation closes at the end of next week). These new standards are very different to those previously set out more than a decade ago. They are amongst the most radical, progressive standards anywhere in Europe, and are designed to apply across all health and social care settings.

Based on the needs, choices and rights of the individual experiencing care they are much more outcome-focused and will help everyone concentrate on what really matters: the experience of the person using care. For the Care Inspectorate that means we may not necessarily focus on details such as the exact square footage of a care home or written policies and procedures.

Rather, we may look at the experience people receive from their care and from staff who support them. That will mean our inspectors have more scope to use their professional judgment to highlight good care and help it improve where necessary.

For me, the most important question when reading the draft standards is: “Do these standards describe high quality care that puts people’s needs, rights and choices at the centre?” not “how easy is this for regulation?” While the development of new standards requires new ways of thinking, they provide an opportunity to shape the way we all would like our care to be designed and delivered in future.

In this context the Care Inspectorate is also looking at ways to adapt and hone our work to better suit the changing needs of people. We have embarked on a transformation plan in our organisation that sets out our priorities for the next two years: consolidating excellence; changing our internal culture; building a competent and confident workforce; and collaborating with external scrutiny and care delivery partners and people who experience care, their families and carers to improve the health and care sector.

The Care Inspectorate makes an important contribution to improving the experiences and outcomes for many hundreds of thousands of people who experience care while, at the same time, ensuring those same people, their families and carers are at the heart of our work.

Last year we engaged with almost 80,000 people who experience care, their families and carers to hear what matters to them. We have also recruited inspection volunteers with a diagnosis of dementia to accompany inspectors and talk to residents in care homes about what life is like for them, especially when someone is living with dementia.

It is only by carefully taking the time to include everyone’s views that we can continue to build on the social care successes we have seen. The consultation on new national health and social care standards is a great opportunity to continue that work.

Karen Reid is chief executive of the Care Inspectorate.

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