• Sarah Whitebloom

Police-probe Sussex Healthcare tries to overturn critical CQC ratings


SUSSEX Healthcare – the care group under police investigation following concerns over 12 deaths – has launched challenges against two critical reports issued by the Care Quality Commission.

In the last few weeks, the care regulator has published the results of seven of its inquiries into the homes – six of which are highly-critical. And SHC has called for ratings in respect of two Horsham-based homes for adults with learning needs and physical difficulties to be reviewed.

SHC has challenged the overall ‘Inadequate’ rating given to Orchard Lodge, one of the homes at the centre of the scandal. This is despite the fact that the local authority, West Sussex, banned placements at the Horsham home and the CQC inspectors found residents received ‘unsafe care and treatment’ and the care homes owner had failed to act to ‘respond to these known risks’.

More unusually, SHC has also challenged a rating given to Beech Lodge, the one home of the seven which was given an overall ‘Good’ mark by the CQC. It is understood, the care group is unhappy with the one area of criticism levelled by inspectors – leadership – for which the Horsham-based home received a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating.

In their report, the inspectors explained why they had taken this step: ‘We found that a number of improvements had been made at the home following safeguarding allegations...The provider had taken prompt action...following recommendations...However, we remain concerned that the improvements identified were due in large part to the interventions and recommendations made by external parties and not as a result of on-going, proactive quality monitoring by the provider. Therefore the provider had missed opportunities to address issues relating to quality and risk as a result of robust governance systems not being operated effectively.’

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SHC’s attempts to change the CQC’s ratings are certain to surprise critics of the group, which is still under investigation by Sussex Police. But it is not the first time that the care regulator has been called on to change a report.

Considerable weight is given by the public to CQC ratings and receiving a bad reports can have a material effect on a care provider’s business. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of care homes accept, reluctantly or otherwise, the ratings in CQC reports. There are tens of thousands of reports published each year and

there are around 150 challenges by unhappy care providers, often backed by legal teams.

There are few grounds, however, for such appeals and the vast majority of challenges fail. Care home groups cannot appeal simply because they disagree with the CQC’s judgement, they must be able to show that the care regulator acted improperly.

Tens of thousands of reports are published by the CQC each year. Out of 446 challenges to adult social care reports, between 2014 and October 2017, only 21 succeeded in getting a rating increased. Most cases are closed

as having ‘no case’.

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