Care UK took responsibilities ‘seriously’, court finds

Care UK took its responsibilities to its customers ‘seriously’ when dealing with the admission of a permanent resident to a care home, a High Court judgment has found.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had taken the provider to court to seek redress for residents who had been charged a compulsory upfront administration fee. The CMA had argued the fee was charged at a point where Care UK had provided no, or only minimal, services.

However, a summary of the judgment said before a self-funded resident was admitted, the assessment carried out by Care UK was ‘very detailed’ and the operator conducted ‘very significant activities prior to the admission’.

An assessment involved a detailed report, which included information about the prospective resident’s life history, daily routine, medical history and medication, allergies, specific behavioural problems or needs, dietary requirements and preferences, sleeping routines and support needs, communication abilities, personal care requirements and end of life care plans (if any).

‘On the basis of that evidence, which was not challenged by the CMA, it is clear that Care UK does carry out very significant activities prior to the admission of a new self-funded resident.

‘Those activities are of course preparatory to that resident’s admission, and do not at that stage involve the provision of accommodation or care to the prospective resident. Nevertheless, Care UK clearly regards the work it does at that stage as necessary in order to enable and facilitate the resident’s admission to the care home, and it is work carried out for the benefit of the prospective resident and their relatives or other representatives.’

The CMA’s case was that three aspects of Care UK’s practices were unfair. These covered pricing information, costs of admission and an emotional commitment of consumers. However, the court disagreed and said it was not necessary to consider the issues of consumer loss and redress.

Care UK, which welcomed the judgment, said: ‘Throughout the process, we have remained confident in our defence and that the administration fee reflected the efforts required to effectively welcome new residents.

‘The practice of charging an administration fee was widespread across the care home sector and there was no guidance in place regarding these fees at the time of the CMA review in 2018.

‘Care UK has always led the way in providing a clear outline of fees on its website and throughout the admission process to potential residents and their families.’

The CMA intends to seek permission from the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment.

In October, Care UK agreed to pay more than £1m in refunds to NHS-funded residents who were charged additional fees towards essential care at its premium homes.