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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 09:18 GMT
Climbdown on care home rules
Nursing home
Nursing homes will have to meet standards by June
The government has abandoned key standards for care homes which campaigners said could force many to close.

They feared that the cost of meeting proposed rules on room sizes and availability of single rooms, baths and lifts could have placed unbearable pressure on home owners.

But campaigners for the elderly said everyone had a right to live in room of their own.

The changes follow a consultation period after proposed standards were first published by the government in July 2002.

The standards covered all aspects of nursing and residential care homes for the elderly and adults aged 18 to 65.

The government has listened to our concerns

Sheila Scott, National Care Homes Association
Only those covering the physical environment have been relaxed.

Care home owners welcomed the climbdown, and said they hoped it would allow some homes contemplating closure to remain open.

It affects homes which existed before April 2002.

However, the standards will apply to new homes.

Worries

All homes will have to provide prospective residents and their carers with information about how they meet the national minimum standards to help people make a choice about whether they want to live there.

Announcing the amended standards, Health Minister Jacqui Smith, said: "We listened to care home owners, residents and their relatives about the national minimum standards.

"We want good care homes to carry on providing a valuable service - vulnerable and older people should not have to worry about how their home will meet the costs of some of the more challenging standards.

"Many of these standards did not have to be met until 2007. Nevertheless, we recognised that care home owners and residents were worried that homes would have to close if the costs could not be met.

"Now many of these environmental standards, which included the room sizes and doors, availability of single rooms and the number of lifts and baths have been relaxed.

"Care homes can now concentrate on meeting the remaining standards and providing a better quality of care for older and vulnerable people."

The amended regulations will come into force in June.

'Ease pressure'

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes Association, told BBC News Online: "It's certainly a dramatic shift since April 2002 when the minimum standards were brought in.

"But it is fair to say that the government has listened to our concerns."

She added: "Undoubtedly it will ease the pressure on some homes that have contemplated closure."

But she said that, for some, the announcement would have come too late.

Barry Hassell, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Association, said it was "good news" that the government had listened to home owners' concerns.

But he said: "It will only prove of real benefit to the future stability of the care home sector if local authorities were now to match the quality of care provided with appropriate fees."

A spokesperson for the charity Help the Aged said: "We believe that all older people, regardless of their income, should have the right to live in room of their own, with space for visitors and some of their personal possessions.

"No older person should ever have to be expected to share a room with a complete stranger."

Fee levels

Paul Burstow MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman on older people, said: "The government sees the scrapping of minimum room sizes as the utopian way of stopping homes from closing, but the meltdown in the care home sector continues unabated."

He said low fee levels were the main cause of concern for home owners.

He added: "The U-turn on minimum room standards that have been championed by ministers for several years, shows how poorly thought out the Department of Health strategy is towards the vulnerable elderly."

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox added: "When is Labour going to realise that its folly profoundly damages the lives of Britain's older people, who need and deserve stability and security, not ineptitude and uncertainty?"

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Frank Ursill, Registered Nursing Homes' Association
"Common sense has had a victory here"
See also:

28 Mar 02 | Health
08 Sep 99 | Health
05 Mar 01 | Health
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