Work by Healthwatch Wiltshire has helped to inform a new national report on peoples’ experience of care homes.

Between January 2016 and April 2017, local Healthwatch staff and volunteers across England visited 197 care homes across 63 different local authority areas, including Healthwatch Wiltshire who visited 21 care homes during that period, to find out what day to day life is really like for many of those living in care homes.

The Healthwatch report outlines key next steps for care homes in Wiltshire, how feedback can be used to identify a whole host of small, low cost changes that ensure all residents feel ‘at home’.

There are approximately 176 care and nursing homes in the Healthwatch Wiltshire area including places providing supported living (source: The majority of residents and relatives Healthwatch spoke with considered the care they received to be good, with innovative homes showing what is possible without breaking the bank.

Local Healthwatch representatives also saw staff going above and beyond the call of duty to connect with those they care for and really helping them to live their lives. People living in care homes in Wiltshire told Healthwatch Wiltshire they really valued activities and being involved in the community.

In one of the homes visited a wide variety of activities was offered including cookery, arts, talks, games, exercises and outings. Residents were also encouraged to do activities with visiting family members, with one saying they had enjoyed painting Easter eggs with their visiting grandchildren.

Staff were seen kicking balls with residents and giving manicures to some of the residents. One resident told Healthwatch Wiltshire staff: “I have never been bored since I moved here.”

However, Healthwatch volunteer visitors also witnessed homes not getting the basics right with even those providing excellent care failing to tick all the boxes. Issues local Healthwatch found involved environment, activities, staffing and wider health needs.

Residents themselves identified problems with things as simple as getting dressed. For example, one person in the county told Healthwatch Wiltshire that, “the staff just pull things out of the wardrobe and say ‘that’s nice’ and put it on me – they don’t ask what I want to wear.”

Although many of the reports produced by local Healthwatch organisations raise concerns about people’s experiences, the vast majority of care home managers have responded to the feedback very positively, often agreeing to review processes and making changes very quickly.

Lucie Woodruff, Healthwatch Wiltshire manager, said: “We have statutory powers to ‘Enter and View’ care homes and speak to people about their experiences of using the service. We sometimes visit as part of specific engagement work and at other times we can turn up unannounced if a number of local people have raised issues or concerns about a care home.

“We would encourage care homes to be more open to using feedback from residents, relatives and staff to help drive improvement.”

Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, said: “It’s not easy running a care home, particularly as the sector as a whole is trying to get to grips with the dual challenge of managing rising demand with limited resources. But getting the basics right doesn’t have to cost the earth and should be the least we should all be able to expect for our loved ones and ourselves should we need care support.

“Care homes are not institutions, they are people’s homes, and the only way to ensure they feel like this for residents is to put them at the heart of shaping how the care home runs. Healthwatch is here to help with this and I would urge anyone who wants to share their experiences, good or bad, to get in touch.”

View the full Healthwatch England report

Read more about the report’s findings and responses by other organisations from across the health and care sector.

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