New Standards For Nursing Homes Could Raise Cost Of Care

Wide-ranging quality standards for nursing homes were unveiled today but they could raise the cost of care for families.

A new system of registration and inspection aims to stop unqualified or unsuitable people establishing residential care homes.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said the controls will cover health and social care needs, quality of life, staffing, the care environment and governance and management.

The watchdog said the standards will safeguard and protect the rights of older people living in residential care and also help service providers.

Hiqa was established by the Government after shocking instances of elder abuse were uncovered at north Dublin’s Leas Cross facility by the RTE ‘Prime Time’ programme in 2005.

Hiqa chief executive Tracey Cooper said the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People spell out what patients, families, carers or the general public can expect to receive in nursing homes.

“As has been demonstrated in the past, the most vulnerable of older people must be protected and supported to live a quality life in a safe, caring and respectful environment and I believe that these are at the heart of these standards”.

Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents over 270 nursing homes welcomed the standards but raised concerns about the cost of introducing them for providers.

“It’s fair to say that regulations, no matter what sector, will have an increase in the cost both to the provider and also for those in our care,” chief executive Tadhg Daly told RTE.

The Prime Time programme revealed untreated bedsores and poor hygiene at Leas Cross as well as poor record-keeping and a lack of activities for residents.

Today’s 32 standards were developed following an extensive consultation.

Each nursing home patient will now receive a contract setting out what they can expect regarding accommodation, care and services.

Residents will be able to enjoy a flexible daily routine which can be varied to suit their needs.

“Where appropriate, their lives in the residential care setting should reflect as far as possible the lives they lived before they entered their new home. The emphasis will be on evidence that residents are being looked after properly and that individual needs are being met,” said Hiqa expert Dr Marion Witton.

Age Action Ireland said the new standards would set the benchmark for a quality safe service for older people.

“For the first time older people and their families will know what to expect from a nursing home,” said spokesman Eamon Timmins.

“The existence of a properly resourced inspectorate should result in an improvement in the quality of care being provided,” he added.