I’d seen the trailers for last night’s Panorama so knew what to expect. Fiona Phillips flashing her Jimmy Choo’s as the celebrity face of Alzheimer’s and doing a bit of crying. Sorry Fiona, perhaps a little harsh but I do have issues with slebs doing ‘issues’. That’s for another blog.
It was of course revolting television and very hard to watch, even when forewarned is forearmed. The online world is rampant with a thousand calls for action, more respect for elderly people, and Telegraph readers demanding instant dismissal of all care home staff not carrying a Surrey passport.
But while it’s good and right to howl loudly from the rooftops, we also need to take a step back and ask how we as a society put a stop to this. It would be lovely to think that the extended family will take over when Grandad starts leaving the gas ring on and tries to make toast with a chocolate digestive.
But the nuclear family is long gone in this corner of the world, and those care industry shareholders won’t be giving up their yachts and racehorses anytime soon. So for now at least we’re left with bodies like the CQC and our Safeguarding Panels to protect vulnerable people from the living nightmares we seem to be seeing and reading about every other day.
Still emerging battered and bruised from the ashes of Winterborne View, the CQC now have their old friends Panorama to thank for yet another death by spycam. They didn’t emerge with a lot of credit last night. It would be all too easy to point the finger and join in with a bit of quango-bashing, but in fact I come to praise Caesar, not to stick a knife in his guts.
They have the unenviable task of inspecting just about anywhere in the country that has a roof, paid staff and vulnerable people sitting indoors. They deserve to be cut some slack for that at least, but what concerned me last night was the sheer panic in the face of what was bound to be another incendiary device going ‘BANG!’ in the face of a horrified public.
They declined to appear on camera with Fiona Phillips. Now Fi is hardly Jeremy Paxman in a designer two-piece so why the reluctance? Our national care inspectorate reduced at once to the status of dodgy car dealer chased around by that bald bloke in a parka who makes shows about dodgy car dealers.
But perhaps with the benefit of past experience, their ‘Panorama Statement’ was robust, reasonable and said all that needed to be said. A media-trained representative could and should have offered that content to the Panorama cameras. More dignity, more transparency, and much less cowboy builder.
And then there was their slightly embarrassing Twitter campaign emerging almost as soon as the credits were rolling. Their output of Tweets is normally so rare I’d forgotten I even follow them, but last night? A slightly embarrassing flurry of ‘It Wasn’t Me Guv’ postings, and a link to their most recent report on Ash Court.
To paraphrase the report: “Ash Court is lovely. I’d send my Gran there.” It contained enough typos to suggest the authorship of a chimp with a bad caffeine habit. Unprofessional, but let’s put that down to the inspector’s report-writing fatigue and almost certain overwork. More importantly, why the apparent whitewash? Well there is that notorious tendency of care homes to get the decorators in as soon as they have a whiff of an ‘unannounced’ inspection, and would we really expect care staff to be stood in front of a clipboard-wielding inspector abusing a frail, elderly woman while chatting away in Spanish and watching Corrie? You can’t punish what you can’t see.
I don’t write public statements for the CQC or for anyone else other than myself and my business. But I might have asked this of those who will invariably point the finger at the inspoectors: “Did anyone from the CQC actually abuse vulnerable people at Winterbourne View or Ash Court? No. Did anyone at CQC have anything to do with building 60-bed three-tier monstrosities which are more about battery farming than any semblance of residential care? No.”
Their management of the latest care industry furore was undoubtedly poor and unnecessarily defensive. They need to learn lessons. They almost certainly need more inspectors on the ground, and less twonks in suits. But there’s a whole heap of reasons why we’ll keep on hearing, reading and seeing these horrors, and the answers won’t come anytime soon. So for now we need a care inspectorate thrusting it’s face into dark corners shouting “Oi! You!” and not running around panicking over an obstinate plop.
If you can’t be bothered reading his profile, Connor Kinsella is Lead Trainer with JCK Training and writes about himself in the third-person.