Harney Announces Draft Residential Care Standards

Draft standards for all residential care have been announced by Ireland’s Minister for Health Mary Harney. The draft standards contain new initiatives such as individual care plans for patients and a minimum quota of 50 per cent of care staff to have FETAC level 5 or an equivalent qualifications.

The standards will apply to public, private and voluntary residential settings and will be “quality standards”, not minimum standards, and will become part of the Health Act 2007.

There will be individual care plans for residents based on diet, visiting times, room sharing with fellow residents, independence, as well as medical, social and spiritual care.

The number of staff and the qualification of staff on duty, must meet the assessed needs of residents under the standards at all times. Also included in the 38 standards are the facilities in the nursing homes themselves.

There must be at least one toilet for every five residents and one hand basin for each resident in a home. En-suite toilet and hand basins are to be provided for all residents in new nursing homes and extensions from 2008. Other nursing home standards refer to lighting, furniture and fittings, space, and equipment.

An independent inspectorate will also be set up to investigate both public and private care units where previously only private units were inspected.

The draft standards will go to consultation for two to three months, and the Department of Health believes they will be adopted before the summer. Ms Harney said the standards were adopted from best international practice.

She said that the Health Act 2007 would have far reaching powers. “Under the powers of the Act, it will be far easier to close down a nursing home if a persons life is in danger,” said Ms Harney.

Standards in nursing homes have not been revised since they were introduced in 1993.