CHESHIRE East Council has defended its approach to council-funded care home placements after facing criticism from a nursing home boss.

The authority has introduced a new approach to such placements to ensure the best quality care and that homes are matched to individual needs.

Linda Couchman, the council’s acting strategic director of adult social care and health, said the process was based wholly on the quality of care offered, and the cost of care was not considered in relation to whether a care home was offered a place ‘on the framework of providers’.

The council provided a statement in response to Jan Gradwell’s letter to Cheshire East expressing her ‘disgust at your new practice of asking care homes to tender bids for care placements’.

Mrs Gradwell is CEO of Mount Pleasant Nursing Home in London Road, Allostock.

She said in her letter: “Elderly people are not a commodity to be farmed out to the highest bidder, with total disregard for their own and their relatives’ preferred choice of home.

“This is an abhorrent practice. What happened to the individual’s right to freedom of choice?

“I also believe the social workers (the ones who are actually familiar with the people involved) are being sidelined, and that care homes are being told to deal only with finance with regard to new admissions.

“You are attempting to de-personalise what should be a very human issue by reducing it to a cost-cutting exercise.

“I am absolutely incensed at Cheshire East’s callous approach to elderly care. Mount Pleasant Nursing Home will not be getting involved in any bidding war.”

Linda Couchman said: “Earlier this year we introduced a new two-stage approach to council-funded care home placements to ensure the best quality of care is provided, that homes are best matched to individual’s needs and the process of identifying and contracting with the appropriate care home for people complies with the council’s regulations and EU procurement rules.

“Care homes that wish to be considered for council-funded placements must satisfy stringent quality requirements to be offered a place on the council’s ‘framework’.

“This process is based wholly on the quality of the care offered and the ability of the organisation to demonstrate they have the appropriate resources and checks in place to provide a safe and stable environment for residents.

“The cost of care is not requested as part of this process, and so does not form any part of the consideration as to whether the care home is offered a place on the framework of providers.

“Once placed on the framework, organisations have the ability to offer a care home placement, as and when needed, on an individual basis, via an electronic system to match customers with care places.

“This system ensures all homes on the framework that can meet the needs of the individual, have the opportunity to offer a placement, ensuring the widest possible choice for service users.

“When presented to service users, offers of care are scored according to the ability of the home to meet the individual’s needs and on the cost and quality of care, as the council has a duty to ensure care is not only appropriate but also offers value for money on behalf of council tax payers.

“However, the major consideration in the scoring process is the ability of the care home to meet the individual’s needs, and 80 per cent of the evaluation is based on quality.

“Therefore, it is not always the case that the council will only pay for the lowest price for a placement with a care home.

“Moreover, customers seeking care are always offered the choice of at least two homes that match their needs, and are not required to choose the cheapest option.

“I am sorry Mount Pleasant Nursing Home is dissatisfied with the process and does not wish to apply for a place on the framework.

“However, the council believes the new system is more transparent in offering a wider choice to residents while ensuring their needs are met appropriately, the best quality of care is provided and the council is compliant with its obligations under procurement regulations.

“We have offered to meet Mrs Gradwell to discuss her concerns but, so far, she has not responded.”