Is the Care Market a Fair Market?

The Competition and Markets Authority study into the Care Market was launched in December 2016 : https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-launches-review-of-uk-care-and-nursing-homes with a brief to examine consumer protection issues, ie contract terms, fees, services offered or withdrawn, contract protection;  explicitly NOT the quality of care.

The CMA press release has an implicit assumption that the Care Market can be described in traditional market terms of the relationship of supply and demand, purchasers and sellers, where relative quality and price be set by the market. The statement does not recognise the role of LAs as described by the Care Act.

Seventeen responses from interested organisations were uploaded in January; we looked at those from Age UK, Care England (CE) and the National Care Association,(NCA)  looking for the key themes and commonality.

The first and major theme that emerges from the responses we looked at is a sense of power differentials and a skewed market. The responses all implicitly underline the relative powerlessness of clients; their vulnerability and their need for stability and person centred care. They all cite underfunding as a major hamper to creating a healthy sustainable market.

The second theme is poor commissioning practice and behaviours, person centred care needs person centred commissioning and funding and this simply does not happen with commissioners lacking appropriate skills.

The third theme is poor and inadequate information available to clients about the local market, local provision, costs, top ups, contract terms; none of which is directly within the power of providers to influence.

There is a focus from two of the respondents on the importance of a robust complaints and feedback processes saying these elements that are within the control of providers and they need to be open, transparent and seen to be effective. Age UK claiming that used effectively, these can drive systemic improvement.