Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Care home standards: The reaction
Care homes may be forced to close due to government quality measures
Care home owners are demanding urgent talks with the government because of fears measures designed to improve quality will lead to home closures.
The National Care Homes Association (NCHA) has welcomed moves to improve training and recruitment of staff in a government consultation paper, Fit for the Future?, published on Wednesday.
"I have never heard that the size of a bedroom harmed anyone, but lack of training does," said Sheila Scott, head of the association.
"The government should concentrate on developing standards for measuring quality care."
She added that some care homes would have difficult complying with minimum room sizes, to be set at 10 square metres, and would be forced to close.
Ms Scott, who walked out on the team developing the care standards over the room size issue, believes its aim is to reduce bed numbers in care homes and to treat more people at home.
"This goes against the government's emphasis on patient choice," she said, adding that falling bed occupancy in care homes was due mainly to local authorities not being funded adequately to pay for them.
The majority of places in independent care homes are paid for by local authorities.
The NCHA is calling for urgent negotiations with Health Secretary Frank Dobson to discuss a compensation package for care home owners if the measures go ahead.
"If we were farmers culling sheep or cattle there would be a compensation package," she said.
Elderly organisations welcomed the commitment to improving training and care.
"Care staff are often not paid very well, have no support or career development and turnover is very high when continuity of care is vital for the elderly," said a spokeswoman for Help the Aged.
But charities are worried about funding for the measures.
Mr Hutton has hinted there will be an extra £3bn over three years to improve elderly care.
Help the Aged asked for more details of where this money would come from and what it would cover.
"We are not sure if it is new money," said a spokeswoman.
She added that, unless the government provided extra funding for staff training this was likely to be passed onto patients through increased care home fees.
And she said new money would be needed to start up the eight regionally-based commissions which will regulate standards.
The commissions, outlined in last year's social services White Paper, are mainly expected to be financed in the long-term through fees from care homes.
Ms Scott said this should not add substantially to their costs as they already paid £46 a bed per year for registration and inspection.
Help the Aged wants elderly people to be well represented on the commissions and to include an Older People's Rights Officer and a complaints system.
The White Paper suggested the commissions would also cover domiciliary care and other care homes, including children's homes.