Complaining in care homes should be encouraged not dismissed

News that hundreds of care homes are banning relatives from visiting elderly residents over complaints about quality of care highlights a growing need for sector reform.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been quick to react to the revelations, which were aired on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. The regulator has stated that care homes will have to share how many relatives of elderly patients have been banned from visiting their loved ones and reveal how many patients they have evicted against their wishes.

The CQC has also taken the step of publishing information for people living in care homes, their family and friends clarifying their visiting rights and its expectations of providers.

It is vital that any care provider creates an environment where people feel comfortable to raise their concerns. Regardless of the type of complaint, relatives must be assured that they can talk to senior staff about potential issues, that they will be listened to and where appropriate any problems will be responded to.

This transparency could help identify issues at an early stage and reduce the risk of negligence further down the line.

Relatives that have tried to complain but are unhappy with the way in which their complaint has been handled, should approach the Local Government Ombudsman for advice. The LGO looks at complaints about councils and adult social care providers including care homes and home care providers. The service is free, independent and impartial.

Concerns should be detailed in writing and normally made within 12 months of the council or care provider doing something wrong.

This process may result in a number of outcomes including improvements in procedures to prevent similar things happening again. The LGO doesn’t have legal powers to force care homes to follow its recommendations, but most care homes do consider the recommendations and implement.

If your complaint is linked to a serious concern arising from possible negligence which has led to harm, seek specialist legal advice to establish your options.

The challenges faced by the care sector have been well documented, but standards should not be allowed to slip. Care homes should take action to ensure that a suitable and accessible complaints process exists. By working co-operatively with relatives, patient safety could be improved and the chance of more serious issues and negligence dramatically reduced.

For further information, please contact Karen Cathcart, a solicitor specialising in clinical and medical negligence at Devonshires on 020 7880 4383 or at


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