LETTERS

It was interesting to read the responses of nursing home inspection officers following the release of the Safe Enough report by the Social Services Inspectorate (news, page 9, 2 August; news focus, pages 11-12, 9 August).

As a national care home operator providing care services for over 6,000 elderly people in 120 widely distributed homes, our dealings with the many health authorities and social services units is extensive.

I was pleased to see Avon health authority earning an 'exemplary' commendation. Avon's inspectors take a balanced approach to regulation, sharing an understanding of the practical and financial difficulties of operating a care home, while applying the standards and regulations so as not to allow any compromise to care. They achieve this by having sound leadership and a team of inspectors.

Sadly, as in all walks of life, this is not a standard that can be met universally.

Along with all other care home operators, I sincerely hope that the one significant change resulting from the National Care Standards Commission will be a more human, flexible and practical approach by many inspectors. I hope that inspectors will appreciate the negative dynamics affecting care home operation and how this will impact on meeting standards.

Further, I hope that inspection units will be more open to dialogue and in some cases reverse criticism without the subsequent victimisation that is sometimes evident.

I believe that this will only be achieved where inspectors are 'up to the job', confident with their responsibilities, and not simply at ease hiding behind the protection of an audit tool.

Louis Smith Managing director - England Four Seasons Health Care Wilmslow Cheshire