Peter Heaton-Jones tells Westminster debate that four in ten care homes are rated as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ and that current system of regulation ‘is simply not working’.

Mr Heaton-Jones tabled a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday after a North Devon resident contacted him to raise concerns about standards of care for elderly people in private nursing homes.

Mr Heaton-Jones said that four in 10 care homes were rated as 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' and that there were 'serious shortfalls' in the current system for the regulation, inspection and investigation of private care homes and nursing homes.

He told fellow MPs: "Of the 700 care homes most recently inspected by the current regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), 44 per cent had been rated as either 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate'.

"Those figures alone suggest that currently the system is simply not working. If it's meant to be driving up standards, it clearly isn't working.

"At the moment, I believe, quite simply, that we are letting people down—the people who are least able to speak up for themselves."

Peter Heaton-Jones said a constituent contacted him more than two years ago because he was worried that people weren't listening to his concerns.

The MP said he was not seeking to re-open that investigation, but described the current complaints system as a 'Catch 22' situation, which gives people no-where to turn to when things go wrong.

"Currently, the CQC won't investigate individual complaints, so you have to go to the Ombudsman. But the Ombudsman won't accept complaints directly from members of the public," he said.

"Furthermore, the Ombudsman can't be challenged by MPs on a case-by-case basis, which doesn't seem right.

"We need a new, single body to inspect, regulate and investigate care homes, to make sure every patient receives the best possible care, and a complaints system that is truly accountable."

Health Minister Alistair Burt said the Government was committed to improving the quality of adult social care, and the CQC been given new powers in 2014.

He said: "We have come a long way; we have made real improvements in the regulation of adult social care in quite a short time, but of course there is more to do.

"The CQC has been transformed in recent years, not least by having been given new powers.

"However, there are things that we need to do and improve; those powers need to be built on."

Mr Heaton-Jones said he met with Mr Burt after the debate and agreed to arrange a meeting with the CQC to discuss the issue.

"I am determined not to let it rest there," he added. "The debate has certainly started the ball rolling and highlighted an important issue which I firmly believe we need to tackle, so I will keep working on this."