Care home fees review

PLANS to introduce a new grading system to boost standards in care homes have been backed by councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council last reviewed the fees paid to care home providers in 2005 and the current system does not account for quality of care.

The council’s new quality standards framework (QSF),- which has been backed by the cabinet committee, will see homes given a grading between one and four.

Current fee levels relate to room size, en-suite facilities and communal space but not the quality of care given to residents.

Senior officers say developing a new QSF that financially rewards providers meeting standards expected is a “logical approach”.

Each of Hartlepool’s 21 care homes will be given a grade, one being the best and four the worst, after going through an extensive evaluation process, which could take two months.

The fees will then be linked to their grading.

It comes as care home providers nationally say local authorities do not set care home fees that meet the costs of providing the care to an expected standard.

A comparison with other local councils showed Hartlepool currently has the fourth lowest fees in the North-East, with several others renegotiating the fees paid.

Finance chiefs have highlighted an initial pressure of £450,000 in next year’s budget for demographic pressures and renegotiating fees - which would be phased over a period of time.

Labour councillor Ged Hall said: “It is in the interests of the council and the people of Hartlepool that all care homes reach the highest possible standard for our most vulnerable people.”

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson said: “The quality of care is of paramount importance.

“Credit to our officers because there is a tremendous amount of work in there.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill added that performance management of care homes “is key”.

There are existing bands in place for care home fees.

The new level of fees will be set in February alongside next year’s budget but officers have stressed there will be an appeals process if care home bosses are unhappy with their grading.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons said: “This will represent a big improvement.”

Councillors heard that the last review was based on an “outdated financial model” that did not take into account the quality of care delivered.

Members agreed to introduce the new QSF, subject to the final costs and assessments of homes, and every year care homes will be assessed and can move up or down a grade.

The level of fees would directly relate to the grade received from the council.