Council warns recession is starting to affect care home quality in Norfolk

Council officials have warned the quality of care home services is being affected by a 'squeeze' on staff numbers, training and activities.

And the effects of the recession are beginning to be seen as care home providers deal with falling income by either making more savings or reducing spending, according to a Norfolk County Council report.

This emerged as it was revealed one out of four inspection checks carried out in Norfolk's residential and nursing homes did not meet the required standards.

The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) latest findings concluded that 308 of the 1,212 tests were 'non-compliant' with regulations. Of this figure, 146 were classified as minor issues, 117 as moderate and 45 as major. The remaining 904 checks were compliant.

The CQC monitors whether homes meet their elderly residents' needs, including nutrition, cleanliness and safety.

Councillors yesterday continued to question why Norfolk County Council is proposing to cut �185,000 from the Quality Assurance Service, which monitors social care standards.

They fear it could jeopardise older people's safety, although the council insists it is developing a replacement service and nothing will be cut until that is ready.

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Harold Bodmer, the county council's director of community services, told a meeting yesterday: 'Non compliance doesn't mean that 25pc of homes are not safe.

'What it means is there might be some very minor things that have not been put right.

'It might be maintenance or it might be how medication is recorded. Where there are major concerns we focus our resources and work with the CQC to see standards improve.'

Councillor George Nobbs, Labour group leader, said: 'I note in the budget proposals we will reduce the scale of capacity for quality assurance by �185,000. I don't know if that's wise or not. This is such a huge issue and so important and causes so much concern to the public.' Cllr Nobbs's proposal for a seminar to educate councillors about the Quality Assurance Service's work was approved.

Meanwhile, the government and the Labour Party were urged yesterday to overhaul England's 'failing' social care system, which experts say is leaving 800,000 elderly people 'lonely, isolated and at risk'.

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, a group of more than 60 government advisers, charity directors and independent experts said failure to meet the challenge of an ageing population was resulting in 'terrible examples of abuse and neglect'.

The signatories, who include Age UK representatives, called for cross-party support to secure 'urgent, fundamental and lasting reform'.

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