Social care homes need to raise their game

Research that we have carried out with social care providers, published today, show s that hundreds of NHS funded social care homes across England will need to raise their game in order to meet their emergency planning obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Many of these care homes are currently not even aware that they are covered by the Act if they receive NHS funding for any of their clients. All of them will have to meet strict emergency planning guidelines, including the staging of exercise to test their business continuity plans every six months.

If proposals from the emergency planning team at NHS England go ahead to adopt a joined-up approach with the Care Quality Commission, then the same higher emergency planning standards are likely to become accepted, and even a required practice across the whole sector. There are currently 15, 187 care homes in England registered with the CQC with over 62,000 patients receiving NHS funding, many of which are looked after in care homes.

The same research also found that the top perceived business disruption threats amongst social care providers were loss of power and the impact of severe weather, which was mentioned by 42% of respondents. This was followed by fire at 29% and illness, health and safety and an IT outage all at 13%.

We were concerned that over 40% of the sample admitted that they either had no emergency communications system in place at all, or else had a system in place that would have been outed along with their IT network if they suffered from a loss of power. Such a disruption event is much more common than commonly thought, with half of the sample having actually suffered from a loss of power during the last 12 months.

All social care providers should ensure that they have a testing and exercising programme in place. This should include a mixture of virtual, desktop and live tests and exercises. Having such a programme in place is standard BC good practice and greatly increases the chances of an effective incident response. It is also likely to become a requirement for the whole social care provider sector if NHS England and the CQC do pursue a joined up approach to emergency planning.

The full research paper, ‘Business continuity planning and social care homes’ covering the regulatory regime in social care homes, business drivers of business continuity planning, business disruption threats in the sector and recommendations for best practice, is available as a free download.