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Your spotlight on health and social care services
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Lessons for care homes

We've reviewed 140 local Healthwatch reports about visits to care homes. We found a number of areas care homes can focus on to help improve residents' experiences.

Resident and nurse

Top four areas where care could be improved

1. Environment

67 reports talked said the environment within care homes could be improved, with reports of wallpaper peeling off and dead plants littering communal spaces. Eleven local Healthwatch had recommend an immediate 'deep clean' after relatives said that their loved ones living in dirty conditions. Our visitors also highlighted the lack of appropriate adaptations, such as grab rails, dementia friendly signage and accessible toilet facilities. 

2. Activities 

47 reports shared feedback about the need for more or better activities. One resident told her local Healthwatch that she had only had one opportunity to do any exercise in the last five weeks. Of the 14 Healthwatch reports that looked specifically at the use of technology, half found that residents had no access to the internet, restricting their options for staying in touch with family and friends.

3. Staffing

43 reports focused on concerns regarding staff numbers, training and turnover, with residents of the homes covered by these reports saying they felt this was affecting their continuity of care. Whilst they praised staff for their attitude, enthusiasm and professionalism, ultimately it was felt they didn’t get enough time to connect with those caring for them. 

4. Wider health needs

34 reports talked about the access residents have to health services outside of their care home, such as GPs and dentists. Half were very positive whilst the other half said residents have to make their own arrangements, and that oral health is a big area of concern.

Two ways services can help make things better

1. Treat residents as individuals and make sure all their needs are met

Home staff must remember that not all residents are the same. In some cases residents will have underlying medical conditions, such as dementia, which mean they require specialist care. However, the rest of the time it's important not to forget that people are just different from one another, with varying likes and dislikes.

Designing life in a care home around both individual needs and preferences is not easy. But finding out about who people are and what they enjoy doing when they move in is a good place to start. We saw this happening in the best care homes, where consultations are arranged with prospective residents to ask about their preferences and start to familiarise them with the home. 

2. Seek feedback, act on it and be open

Simple low-cost measures, such as introducing 'residents days', setting up a residents forum, or even just providing a clearly labelled comments box with paper and pens, can help people provide more regular feedback. 

Once feedback has been received, and acted on, it's important that care homes tell residents and their relatives what's happened as a result. This helps to build a more positive culture and will encourage people to come forward again in the future.

It's vital that care homes tell people how they can go about making more formal complaints, and that they deal with them quickly and openly. 

 <<Go back to our work on care homes