Stoke-on-Trent City Council sees rise in complaints about elderly care
FORMAL complaints about the standard of care provided to vulnerable and elderly residents have increased by seven per cent in a year – but the true number of concerns is still likely to be "much higher."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council said moves to provide more care services through private firms and charitable organisations may have contributed to the increase.
Figures released as part of an annual review show a total of 201 formal complaints were registered in 2011/12, up from 188 a year earlier and 127 in 2010.
The city council also invites compliments about care services, but the number it received plunged by 207 to 421 in 2011/12 – a 33 per cent drop.
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The North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention said the true number of complaints is much higher than the formal register suggests.
It deals with scores of complaints each year under condition of anonymity.
Andy Day, the convention's co-ordinator, said: "Particularly with one-to-one care, people often don't know who to complain to and think there will be a comeback because it's a personal relationship between a care worker and an individual.
"People are reluctant to access the complaints process and often don't have the energy to fight. There are many more people with concerns than official complaints suggest and the real total is much higher.
"But standards we have witnessed, particularly in the private care home sector, have varied from good to really very poor. There is an awful lot going wrong in the care that older people are receiving."
A report by Tony Oakman, director of adult services at the council, acknowledges a reluctance to complain.
Mr Oakman said: "We recognise that service users and their carers may find it difficult to talk about their views or concerns. Individuals may be worried that complaining will lead to repercussions."
Cases which led to an admission of wrongdoing ranged from complaints about staff behaviour to poor care standards and disputes over charges.
It follows a campaign by the pensioners' group, which claims residents are often billed for home care they do not receive.
A total of 61 complaints were rejected.
Mr Oakman's report states that complaints are received from just 1.7 per cent of customers, but recognises concerns about private care.
He said: "The increase is in part a response to the changing way we deliver social care, particularly moving long-term provision to the independent sector."
John Davis, aged 77, of Bentilee, chairman of the pensioners' convention, said: "It's obvious to me that the standard of care in the private sector is nowhere near the quality of public sector care which is managed properly.
"They have to look at making a profit rather than simply being funded to provide the best possible care for the people who need it."
City councillor Bagh Ali, chairman of the council's adult services scrutiny committee, said members will review the figures. He said: "We need to have a good look at it and go through it properly to make a judgement. It could be more people coming to us or it could be there is a problem we have to look at."
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