Life in a care home in Surrey, what’s it really like?

10th August 2017
  • New study compiles the views and experiences of those who live, visit and work in care homes across England.
  • Wide variation revealed, with great care contrasting with homes failing to get the basics right for every resident.
  • National care champion Healthwatch England urges homes to be more open to using feedback from residents, relatives and staff to help drive improvement.

Work by Healthwatch Surrey 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 Surrey, 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 across England, how feedback can be used to identify a whole host of small, low cost changes that ensure all residents feel ‘at home’.

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 – including one home in Surrey in which residents had been supported to use Skype, email and the internet to explore hobbies and keep in touch with their relatives across the world.

However, Healthwatch volunteers also witnessed homes not getting the basics right with even those providing excellent care failing to tick all the boxes.

Issues local Healthwatch found across England involved environment, activities, staffing and wider health needs. Visits carried out by Healthwatch Surrey highlighted a great deal of inconsistency in the way meaningful activities were provided for elderly care home residents.

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.

In Surrey, 79 of 93 care homes who responded to the local Healthwatch report, ‘My Way, Every Day’ agreed to review the activities they provide to ensure residents can participate in a flexible way that overcomes changing health limitations like dementia or physical disabilities.

Other improvements included new day trips for residents, additional activity co-ordinators and more training for staff in person-centred care.

Surrey County Council has also agreed to investigate the extent to which smaller care homes, without an activities co-ordinator, provide activities for residents.

Matthew Parris, Evidence and Insight Manager of Healthwatch Surrey, said:

“We are pleased that many care homes in Surrey are making improvements for residents as a result of feedback from Healthwatch, but there is still much more to do.

Part of our plans for this year will be to look at visiting care homes to see the changes that have been made and find out more about those services that we’ve yet to visit or hear much about.

We are now calling on local people to volunteer to get involved in this work to make sure we see and speak to as many residents as possible.”

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.”

The report, ‘What’s it like to live in a care home?’ is available here.


List of local Healthwatch who have contribute to the Care Homes report:

Barnet, Birmingham, Bradford and District, Bromley, Bucks, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Central West London, Cheshire West and Chester, County Durham, Coventry, Croydon, Darlington, Derbyshire, Devon, East Riding of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Halton, Havering, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Hillingdon, Kent, Kirklees, Lambeth, Lancashire, Leeds, Lewisham, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, North East Lincolnshire, North Somerset, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Portsmouth, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Rochdale, Sandwell, Sheffield, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire, South Tyneside, St Helens, Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent, Suffolk, Surrey, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Torbay, Tower Hamlets, Trafford, Waltham Forest, Wakefield, Warrington, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, York.

Healthwatch Surrey report, ‘My Way, Every Day’ (January 2017)

In Autumn 2016, Healthwatch Surrey staff supported especially trained volunteers to carry out ‘Enter and View’ visits to 25 care homes in the county to observe the environment and speak to residents, staff managers and any visiting friends and family.

The full ‘My Way, Every Day’ report, together with an Impact Report (June 2017), summarising the responses received from commissioners and care home providers is available on the Healthwatch Surrey website. Please click here to be taken to the relevant page.