Norman Lamb: Ensuring good quality care is essential to Lib Dem mission for fairer society

Stay Well At Home Service, Evesham, BritainThe BBC reports that those seeking to work in care homes will have to have a certificate before being allowed to look after people without supervision.

New care workers will have to earn a training certificate within 12 weeks of starting a job in a hospital or care home, the BBC has learned.

The initiative comes in from March next year in England for staff including hospital healthcare assistants.

Topics will include infection control, dementia care and patient dignity.

This follows an independent review, in the wake of the Stafford Hospital Scandal, which highlighted inconsistencies in training.

Across England, there are more than a million care workers, many of whom look after vulnerable and elderly people in their own homes or in residential care.

This isn’t actually a new idea as it was first announced last November but the disturbing footage shown on Panorama the other night has brought the issue of abuse in care homes to prominence again.

Norman Lamb went on the BBC this morning to talk about what the government is doing to improve care in general.

He said that when he first became a minister, he was horrified that there was no minimum standard that people should have to reach before they could work in a care home. He added that the government was testing various ways of driving up standards in the caring profession. The certificates would apply only to new care workers from March next year but the inspection regime was becoming much more robust. Inspectors will be able to take action if they find that the staff in a care home have not been properly trained.

He was asked whether the routine use of surveillance cameras was necessary. He replied that they had their place within an investigation if the Care Quality Commission suspected that abuse was going on and added that we would never have found out about the Winterbourne View case without them. He didn’t think their routine use would necessarily drive up care standards in themselves, though.

He also said that the Liberal Democrats were on a mission to create a fairer society and ensuring that  people had access to high quality care when they need it was an essential part of that.

We must ask ourselves, though, whether it’s possible to do that when the caring profession is undervalued and usually underpaid and overworked. A care assistant in a nursing home is often paid the national minimum wage for doing a stressful and demanding job.  Is that right and what can we do about it?

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  • Stephen Donnelly 3rd May '14 - 3:01pm

    The measures being introduced seem sensible in themselves, but fall along way short of addressing the fundamental issues, as the final paragraph in the piece by Voice points out.

    The party seems to believe that a strategy of accumulating small, often managerial, gains will be sufficient at the next election to secure enough MP to hold the balance of power. No doubt the approach taken by Norman Lamb is on message. This may even work to secure ministerial jobs for a handful of MPs. But for the rest of us, the party members who deliver the leaflets, make the donations, and keep things going, it does beg the question: what is the point of supporting and working for the party.

    I want to see the Liberal party addressing the bigger questions, and proposing reforms that are challenging and could make a real difference. In health we seem to have left the big picture to the Conservatives, and I doubt many party members trust them to put the interests of patients ahead of big business and rich investors.

    We have a good candidates in both local and European elections, so I will deliver my leaflets. But I would not vote for Norman as a Health minister.

  • Yet again another care home story, yet again the “what can we do about it”, almost certainly we will wait for the next sad story of care workers failing those they are supposed to helping…

    What we can do is quite obvious but sadly the government will not act other than to play the blame game whilst wringing their hands.
    The training certificate will be meaningless unless other steps are taken, training is very important but we need new rules regarding pay and working conditions, minimum wage should not be the salary for someone like a carer whose responsibility far out ways the pay they receive, many on zero hour contracts because it is again the cheap option.

    Until society forces the politicians to do the correct thing regarding care workers, we will only get what we pay for, limiting the number of people that a carer has to care for would help, home care should pay for time working including travel time, not just time caring… zero contract hours should be banned for care service whether institute or home care, we need time and motion reports to determine what constitutes good work conditions/practice for care worker and those receiving care in the care service industry then pay accordingly.
    Saying we cannot pay to do this is not an option.


  • Lisa Harding 3rd May '14 - 6:00pm

    “undervalued and usually overpaid” – think perhaps you meant underpaid.

    Fantastic news though. Watching Panorama last week was just awful to see.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd May '14 - 7:46pm

    You’re right, Lisa. It was overworked & underpaid in my head. Now fixed.

    Stephen: Norman has been a great health minister IMO. What he’s doing on mental health is fantastic.

  • I’ve been working in this policy area recently and warmly welcome this move. Its not going to solve all the problems but it is a step in the right direction.

    Many people considering care will be mindful of the risk of abuse and the competency of the staff. These are fears which undermine confidence and will harm the market unless not addressed.

    With reference to the first comment, this is a real and live issue. On the doorstep, especially in ageing communities, you are likely to come across someone who is considering care for themselves or someone they care for. Ultimately it affects everyone.

    And there is a distinct libdem message to give
    A) the cost of personal care may not be free but it will be capped
    B) when you enter a care home, your dignity and human rights will be protected
    C) when you are there, councils will have safeguards in place to prevent abuse and all staff will be trained to a minimum standard

    Apols, I shouldn’t be doing campaigners work for them but I do strongly support the issues here

  • “The certificates would apply only to new care workers from March next year …”

    Which makes it an even more minimal change.

  • “And there is a distinct libdem message to give”

    Surely that should read “an agreed Lib Dem/Conservative message”? These are coalition policies, aren’t they?

  • The fact is nothing fundamentally has changed in nearly four years of this coalition government.

    Councils take a hands off approach because they have sub contracted home and residential care to the private sector.

    The Care Quality Commission aren’t interested in doing proper checks.

    This leads to only one conclusion which is radical reform of a broken system.

    What we are seeing instead is minor tinkering.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '14 - 1:13pm

    Castlebeck the owners of Winterbourne View were reported to have had a turnover of £3.7 million with an average of £, 500 pounds paid per person . Why when so much is paid are the people delivering the care paid so little, if it the level of wages that leads to appalling care?

    @ sfk.
    Who does capping of the cost of care most benefit? Certainly not people like my eighty eight year old sister who we fund to keep in her own ( now privately owned former council house home.) The profit from her one asset will be eaten up in a very small time indeed – its worth about £60,000. She won’t be able to leave any money to her daughter who as well as holding down a full time job, shops, cooks and cleans to keep her in her own home for as long as possible. The cap seems unfair to me in practice because the very wealthy will be the ones who benefit from taxpayers funds despite having ample funds, whereas those with few assets will lose everything.

    Is the lack of care and respect for dignity of the vulnerable really a training issue. Some people who we know failed to give good care were highly trained. Some at Winterbourne View were criminals, they were jailed. How does a twelve week course prevent someone in a relatively closed community from behaving badly or from behaving criminally?

    I don’t think I have ever had a conversation with a politician ( except on here), and I only get leaflets at the time of elections , so I am really interested in these things , I am not just being grumpy.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '14 - 1:41pm

    The above should read, an average of £3,500 per patient per week.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th May '14 - 1:56pm

    Chris, these are policies being brought in by a Liberal Democrat health minister whose responsibility this is.

    Dave, you need to look at the whole thing as a package. More robust inspections, more powers to the CQC and proper training for all staff with all new staff having to earn a qualification first, seems to me to be a practical suite of measures to tackle this.

  • I used to be a lay visitor (now ICO) to police stations. I dont see why a similar voluntary system couldnt be used for care homes. See below:

    An independent custody visitor is someone who visits people who are detained in police stations in the United Kingdom to ensure that they are being treated properly. Prisoner escort and custody lay observers carry out a similar function in relation to the escort of prisoners from one place to another, or their custody at court.

    Custody visiting originated as a result of the recommendations from the Scarman Report into the 1981 Brixton riots. Initially, the provision of custody visiting was voluntary on the part of the Police Authorities, but it was placed on a statutory basis in 2002.[1]

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '14 - 9:21pm

    @ Tony Harms,
    That seems like a good idea to me. It seems to me that people got away with their behaviour because of poor management and the fact that they thought they could.

    I would argue though that many of the people in these care settings shouldn’t have been in them in the first place. They were totally inappropriate to the needs for the patients concerned. People with learning difficulties can be cared for more appropriately in smaller, more homely surroundings.

    I would also like to see more support for families like my own where, an elderly sister with multiple needs will go into a nursing home over my dead body and that of her daughter, ( literally). As things become more difficult, it seems we are unable to access any help to keep her in her own home where she wants to stay.

    We now live in a society where those family members who are prepared to care for their own vulnerable members are often in jobs whilst trying to care for an older relative and also at the other end of the spectrum, children. Any financial support to family carers does not reflect this reality.

    A change that makes all the options above available would save, not cost money as they would be cheaper and more appropriate.

  • Stephen Donnelly 5th May '14 - 5:18pm

    The conclusion,seems to be a set of,sensible measures that do very little to tackle the fundemental problems..

  • The CQC is totally discredited, it simply doesn’t have the resources to carry out more robust inspections.

    A privatised care system is the problem because it means profit is the main motivator.

    Tackle that and you can start to improve things.

    Anything else is tinkering.

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