A proposed “bidding” system that will see Northamptonshire care homes tender for the care of individual pensioners, will treat the county’s older populations no better than “livestock in a cattle market” says a care home association.
Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) currently gives private care homes between £406 and £594 a week to look after elderly people who do not have the means to pay to stay in residential homes.
The fees - which many homes bosse say do not cover their own costs - have always been fixed, depending on the type of care a resident needs
But now the county council wants to bring in a scheme where homes bid for their would-be elderly residents from a list - a move which will see the cost of care differ drastically across the board. To make matters worse, some care homes are refusing to sign up to the new scheme, which providers say could lead to a shortfall in beds.
Glenn Hurd, of Norarch, the association of registered care homes in Northamptonshire, , said: “We are very concerned that NCC have decided to change their payment rates, without consultation, in favour of a bid system which treats the older population of Northants no better than livestock at a cattle market.”
Norarch is now threatening to sue the council for going against professional advice.
It comes after the county council commissioned PricewaterhouseCooper to carry out a “fair cost exercise” in 2013, which recommended sticking with the flat rate. Norarch has now sent the council a letter of intent to take legal action, claiminmg the authority has “discarded” the findings of that report and has proceeded while care homes are being consulted.
Northamptonshire County Council says it did take feedback from care homes “into account” following talks with various providers this year. But the authority says it had to change the flat rate because of budget pressures.
A spokeswoman said: “The council has done its upmost to ensure its processes are kept as equal and open to competition as possible, ensuring no exclusive rights to any third party organisations. Assessment of pricing in the tender process is essential with the financial challenges we face.”
The owner of a care home in Northamptonshire said he refused to sign up to the ‘unethical’ tendering process as it would put homes out of business and see others unable to carry out required duties.
The proprietor, who did not wish to be named, runs a small residential home in the county and will not have access to state-funded residents if he does not sign up to the scheme. But he would rather take that risk because he does not agree with the idea that homes can bid for individual residents on an electronic database.
He said: “Some people will sign up to it for whatever reason. But I will not for one very good reason.
“I don’t think it’s ethical what they are doing.
“The choice for residents will be severely curtailed. It might mean they cannot go to the home of their choice.
“And homes will find it hard to comply with their statutory duties.”
One of the major issues, he said, was that homes would need to choose either to make a high bid and risk the resident going with a cheaper provider, or bid too low and take on residents at a loss.