The importance of getting your Care Home terms and conditions right
If you’re busy running a residential care home and doing everything you can to comply with the Care Quality Commission’s essential standards, it’s quite possible that the last thing on your mind is updating your residents’ terms and conditions. However, this is not an area you should neglect.
You are required to ensure that every private resident has a written contract with the home at the point they move in. Council-funded residents must be given a statement of terms and conditions.
The vast majority of terms relating to Council-funded residents will be in the Core Contract you have signed with the Council and there’s often little scope for negotiating these.
However, your contract with private residents gives you an opportunity to put some protection in place for the home.
Of course, whenever you’re dealing with consumers, you always need to ensure your contract is fair and does not bury unexpected terms in the small print (even more so when dealing with elderly consumers). In fact “small print” is definitely to be avoided – your chosen font should be clear and legible.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take some steps to improve your position.
For example, nobody likes to think about death, but what should/could you do with a deceased resident’s possessions? You don’t want to be insensitive in your dealings with the deceased’s close family but it’s impossible to avoid the fact that a room full of possessions with no weekly income is a loss for the home.
Introducing some simple, clearly-worded rights into the contract from the start can avoid any awkward conversations later on. For example, the right to charge a little extra to the account, to move possessions into storage or even (where possessions are not claimed within a reasonable time) to sell them and pass the money to the deceased’s estate (less any costs you’ve incurred in dealing with the property of course).
Fees are of course another important aspect for any home and your contract should set out clearly the circumstances in which you can increase them (for example, RPI, increased costs of individual care or costs of increased legislative burden).
There are also a number of areas your terms should always include, such as the basis of the stay (trial, respite, permanent), the type of room, notice periods, the fees to be paid, the services to be provided, which services are at extra cost and details of the various rights and obligations of the resident and the home.
If you haven’t updated your home’s contract or terms and conditions for some time (or if you don’t have any at all) then this is an area you should look at now.
Matt Worsnop is an Associate Solicitor at BHW Solicitors in Leicester and writes regularly on contract and commercial matters. Matt can be contacted on 0116 281 6235 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.