Choosing a care facility is a significant and often emotional decision. Moving to a new care home if your current one isn’t right for you can be a huge change, so you need to be sure you have all the details you need to make the best decision.
If you pay all of the costs of your services yourself or have some or all of the costs covered by the local government, Health and Social Care Trust, or NHS, you have consumer rights. Knowing your rights will allow you and anyone assisting you to obtain the details you need to make an informed decision when selecting a care facility. Your consumer rights will also help ensure that you are handled equally and secured in the event that anything goes wrong.
This guide will give you a summary of your Consumer Rights. Other safeguards, such as those relating to safety and care quality, are imposed by the following national regulators, who are in charge of inspecting care homes:
The Care Quality Commission is a government agency that oversees the quality of (England)
The Care Inspectorate is a government agency that oversees the quality of (Scotland)
Wales’s Care Inspectorate covers the quality of care homes (in Wales).
The Authority for Regulation and Quality Improvement is a government agency that regulates and improves the (Northern Ireland)
Choosing a Treatment Facility
When you or anyone else contacts a care facility for the first time, the facility is required to provide you with some key details. This should be concise and easy to comprehend in order to assist you in making decisions such as whether to shortlist the house, schedule a visit, or pursue additional information.
The following are some of the most important details:
if the care home supports people who pay their own fees as well as those whose fees are covered by the local government, the Health and Social Care Trust, or the NHS a description of the forms of care, services, and activities available
where appropriate, a brief overview of the staffing arrangements, the regulator’s most recent inspection rating or grade for the home, and where to find the most recent inspection a statement
any particularly surprising or relevant terms and conditions that may apply to you, such as if the home needs you to demonstrate that you can pay for your own treatment for a minimum period of time and how your payments may increase during your stay, or how much you may pay to stay in the home if you are paying for your own care. This will provide an estimate of how high your weekly fees will be if you are paying for your treatment (the actual sum will be determined by an estimation of your care needs and the type of room you select) as well as any other arrangements you will have to make in advance, such as deposits.
What services are included in the weekly rates, and are there any additional fees (for example, being accompanied by staff to hospital appointments) or optional ‘extras’ (for example, hairdressing)?
This important information should be prominently displayed on the care home’s website, in any information packets or other materials you receive (for example, in a “main facts” sheet), and explained to you on the phone and during your first visit.
The home can also provide you with valuable additional details to assist you in making your decision (including information about any trial period offered, and the circumstances in which you could be asked to leave).
This information should be readily available to you from the beginning of your quest, and the care home should consciously give it to you in enough time for you to consider it before agreeing to a care needs assessment.
Additional information should be easily accessible on the care home’s website, included in information packets given to you, and explained to you during any subsequent inquiries. The home can also give you a copy of the standard terms and conditions that you will be required to sign before you move in (if you pay for your care).
The home must confirm the actual amount you’ll have to pay, including the final average weekly fee rate, after it has evaluated your care needs and you have selected the services you want.
Before you accept the final bid, you should be given ample time to think about it.
Conditions of Sale
There would be a deal between you and the care home if you are paying for your own care. The contract’s terms and conditions must be written plainly and explicitly, without jargon, so you can understand your rights and obligations.
Terms must be written down and decided upon in a fair and open manner with you.
A contract term that is unfair to you will not be legal, and the care home will not be able to keep you to it. Unfair terms are those that unfairly disadvantage you or the individual who signs the contract on your behalf (for example, because they give the care home more rights than you).
Among the terms that could be considered unequal are those that:
keep you to ‘secret’ words that you haven’t had a chance to read and understand don’t hold the care home liable if something goes wrong and it’s their fault
enable the care home to make abrupt adjustments to the rates by requiring fees to be charged for extended periods after a resident has died
require any upfront costs unless it is a reasonable deposit or a payment in advance of the normal residential fees
What if anything unexpected happens when I’m in the treatment facility?
You should offer the care home’s agreed-upon service, not anything drastically different.
It is likely to be unreasonable if the contract requires the care home to make several changes to support itself. Except under exceptional circumstances does the terms of your contract or the service rendered by the care home need to be altered.
If there are any updates, you should normally be notified at least 28 days in advance. If you’re dissatisfied with the move, you should be allowed to leave without penalty before it takes effect.
Your contract should also spell out the conditions in which your fees can adjust, as well as how such changes will be measured. This involves situations where the fees are reviewed annually or where the medical needs change dramatically.
It’s possible that your contract gives the care home an exclusive right to raise your fees or make unforeseen adjustments.
Being asked to quit a residential care facility
The care home should clarify why it would need to ask you to leave and include this information in your contract.
There must be legitimate factors, such as:
The care home is no longer able to satisfy your care needs, and after fair changes, you have consistently failed to pay your bills, resulting in substantial arrears.
Without first contacting you, those accompanying you, and all appropriate independent experts, the care home does not ask you to leave.
You should be given at least 28 days’ notice to leave in writing.
The staff of the care home must behave with due care and expertise and provide the service that was promised. If they don’t, you will be entitled to sue for breach of contract reimbursement.
They must, for example, ensure that the care home’s facilities and equipment are appropriate and clean, and that you are treated with dignity and respect. They should be professional if they claim to provide a specific form of treatment (such as palliative care).
What are your options in the event that something goes wrong?
You have the right to express your dissatisfaction with your treatment or the way you’re being handled at any time.
The care home must make it simple for you to file a complaint and respond to it promptly and reasonably. They should point you in the direction of people who can help you, such as advocacy, translator, and advice services.
Your care home’s employees should never deter you from filing a complaint. If you make a complaint, they do not attempt to limit or ban your visits or ask you to leave.
The policy for dealing with problems at the care home must be in writing and should include the following:
be easy to find on their website, in their service guide, and in the care home itself; be simple to understand and use; and clearly state what problems and issues it addresses.
to be used in various languages (in so far as possible) and audio, as well as large print, braille, and other formats
set transparent and fair deadlines whether a complaint needs to be investigated further
As far as possible, maintain your privacy.
explain how you can escalate the case to somebody higher up in the care home if you don’t think it’s been handled properly, and where you can go if you’re dissatisfied with how the care home handled the complaint (for example, to the Ombudsman or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland).
You have customer rights as a patient of a care home.
Care homes that fail to fulfill their commitments may be in violation of consumer legislation, and local Trading Standards Services or the CMA may take action against them.
If you believe you are not being handled equally or that a care home is violating consumer law, you can call Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06 (or call 03454 04 05 05 to talk with a Welsh-speaking advisor), or go to the Citizens Advice website. In addition to providing guidance, the customer helpline will report grievances to Trading Standards. Consumerline can be reached in Northern Ireland by calling 0300 123 6262 or visiting the Consumerline website.