Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

It was the Oscars on Sunday — always a slightly surreal event for those of us on this side of the pond. We go to bed just as the first frocks and tuxedo’s step onto the red carpet, wake up when all the drama is done and dusted and then are treated to TV footage of parties and celebrity gossip over breakfast.

This year, issues close to our social care hearts were given a huge boost from the Oscar-winning performances of Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne. Congratulations to them both.

Raising awareness: dementia

In ‘Still Alice’, Julianne Moore plays a 50 year old academic who has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. The film isn’t released in the UK yet so I don’t speak from experience but critics hailed her ‘extremely moving’, ‘exquisitely nuanced’ and ‘gripping’ performance.

Blogger, Pippa Kelly, wrote in the Huffington Post: “If Moore repeats her successes in the Golden Globes and Baftas, something very dear to my heart could become more talked about, in better ways, and less misunderstood and stigmatised. I’m thinking of dementia, which affects 850,000 of us in the UK and over five million Americans.”

Accepting the Oscar, Julianne Moore said herself: “I’m so happy — I’m thrilled actually that we were able to hopefully shine a light on Alzheimer’s disease. So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized and one of the wonderful things about movies is it makes us feel seen and not alone. And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen, so that we can find a cure.”

In a week when raising the profile of dementia has been given prominence, I am so glad that Hollywood has done its bit.

Raising awareness: disabilities and carers

In ‘The Theory of Everything’, Eddie Redmayne was brilliant as Stephen Hawking. The story of his trials and tribulations as he confounded the expectations of the patronising and paternalistic highlighted the struggles people with disabilities face on a daily basis.

It is about time we made sure society as a whole, not just specific care and support services, focused on easing these problems and enabling people with disabilities to live the meaningful, fulfilling lives they want.

Another strong theme in ‘The Theory of Everything’ was the role of family carers — Felicity Jones (another Oscar nominee) as Jane Hawking portrayed perfectly the dedication and commitment but also the frustration and exhaustion that caring for someone you love can bring. Carers UK and others rightly remind us of the enormous contribution that carers make which this film vividly brought to life.

Injustice

There were some injustices. At the weekend I saw ‘Selma’ at our local cinema — a powerful, moving film about Martin Luther King and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. David Oyelowo’s performance as Dr King is magnificent — goodness only knows how he missed out on an Oscar nomination. If you have not seen it, I definitely recommend it.

Controversy

And there was controversy. The top prizes for Best Film and Best Director did not go as widely predicted to Richard Linklater for ‘Boyhood’. Instead Alejandro G Inarritu walked off with the two trophies for ‘Birdman’. I’ve seen both and I am just as surprised as anyone. ‘Birdman’ was certainly inventive but I thought it overstepped the boundary between quirky and just plain weird. ‘Boyhood’ — a 12 year labour of love — was a sensitive observation of childhood and family life which had much more resonance for me.

Opinion v Judgment

But that’s my personal opinion and the Academy Award voters are entitled to theirs. But personal opinion and courting controversy have no place when CQC is awarding ratings for social care services. We need to make sure that people who use services, their families and carers as well as providers and staff see our judgments as robust and reliable. Concerns about the potential for inconsistency by inspectors have been raised with us throughout the development of our new inspection approach and we have put in place a number of measures to minimise the potential for different decisions:

  • Focusing all our inspections on the 5 key questions that matter to people — are services safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led?

Reports and ratings

This is all crucial for consistency but has meant that in too many cases we have not published our reports in a timely manner. I am sorry that this has happened while we have been introducing our new inspection approach and the frustration this has caused people using services, their families and carers as well as providers. We are doing a lot of work now to speed up our report writing and are starting to see improvements, which I expect will accelerate as we all become more familiar with the new approach.

Just like winning an Oscar, the award of an outstanding or a good rating will be something that providers will want to celebrate. We do want to make sure that the public are aware of all our judgments and our consultation on how we should do this ends on Wednesday 25 February — so if you have not had your say, get in quick!

Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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