Almost a year on from the tragedy of the fire at the Rosepark Care Home at Uddingston, near Glasgow, when 14 elderly residents died, new advice on fire safety strategy in care homes is now available.
'A recent research report - which will be published within the next few weeks - confirms the importance of doors being kept closed to prevent the spread of smoke and fire.
'A fire safety risk assessment undertaken by the owner/occupier of a residential care home will identify those doors which should be kept closed. Automatic self-closing devices should normally be fitted to these doors.
'The choice of self-closer type is important since some are not appropriate in a care home for older people or people with disabilities and advice should be sought from the local Fire and Rescue Service.
'All care homes have call systems to ensure people can get help when they need it. During the night it is particularly important that the call system is within easy reach of people who need help or extra reassurance.
'Some people will more readily accept their bedroom door being closed at night if they are confident help is at hand.
'Should residents, families or care providers be in any doubt they should in the first instance contact their local Fire and Rescue Service.'
Ms Roberts said:
'The National Care Standards for care homes for older people refer to the right of older people to be safe but not be over protected and to make informed choices while recognising the rights of other people to do the same. There is a balance to be achieved between these sometimes competing demands.
'Everyone living in a care home should have a personal plan which details their care and support needs and how these will be met including how risks will be reduced or managed.
'The views of the individual and their carers should be taken into account when the personal plan is developed. Care providers and managers in care homes must adopt a sensible and proportionate approach, which is based on managing risk and balancing safety with the needs, rights and choices of the service users.
'As part of our normal inspection routine, the Care Commission will monitor the effect of these arrangements on the quality of life for care home residents.'
This joint statement on fire safety in care homes is the latest initiative in a range of actions taken by the Executive, and also in some instances in partnership with the Care Commission and Fire and Rescue Authorities, following the Rosepark fire.
The actions include:
Arranging with the Care Commission for the Fire and Rescue Service in Scotland to visit all 1,800 or so residential care homes to reassure residents and staff and where necessary to recommend care home owners to draw up action plans for refreshing their fire precautions. The Care Commission will shortly be appointing a dedicated fire safety adviser on secondment from a fire and rescue authority in Scotland to assist them further
Announcing that from May 2005 all new residential care buildings, sheltered housing and high rise blocks of flats would require to have sprinklers fitted
Introducing in the Scottish Parliament the Fire (Scotland) Bill, Part 3 of which will bring in a new fire safety regime with the emphasis on identifying and reducing the risk of fire across a range of premises, including residential care homes. The Bill will give fire and rescue authorities statutory responsibility for enforcing the new regime.
Making available to care home owners interim technical guidance on fire safety measures pending the production of specific fire safety guidance for residential care homes as part of a suite of guidance documents to be published on the new fire safety regime when the Fire (Scotland) Bill is enacted
From April 2005 each Fire and Rescue Authority will be introducing local Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs) which will replace the exisiting recommended Standards of Fire Cover. Residential care homes are likely to have a high priority in IRMPs for regular visits.
Justice minister Cathy Jamieson said:
'As we approach the first anniversary of the tragic events which took place at the Rosepark Care Home last year, it is vital that we continue to take all appropriate steps to further protect older and vulnerable people from the dangers of fire.
'I very much welcome this announcement which proposes a sensible approach to fire safety in care homes balancing the quality of life for the residents with safety and choice.
'Rosepark was a terrible tragedy. It is important that we continue to address any lessons learned so that we can minimise the possibility of this happening again.'