The standards will come into force from April 2002 and will drive up the quality of care, increase protection of older people and guarantee consistent quality of care in care homes throughout the country. They were developed following extensive consultation with a wide range of representatives, including care providers.
The standards for care homes for older people set out minimum requirements in seven main areas:
Choice of Home, covering the provision of information given to prospective residents about the care home;
Health and personal care, ensuring that appropriate care for the individual is provided, making sure that dignity is respected at all times;
Daily life and social activities, providing residents with more say in terms of how services are provided, giving them greater choice over day-to-day living arrangements - such as what time they get up or go to bed, mealtimes, social activities;
Complaints and protection, strengthening the rights of residents and their relatives, ensuring that any complaints are properly dealt with;
Environment, ensuring that the setting of the care home meets the needs of the resident so that they are able to live in a safe, well-maintained place;
Staffing, ensuring that people are always looked after by properly trained staff who have been subject to thorough checks on recruitment;
Management and administration, ensuring that managers are responsible and capable. Additionally, (by 2005), managers will also be required to hold a relevant management qualification.
Mr Hutton said: 'For too long there has been a lack of independence, coherence and consistency in the regulation of care homes. These minimum standards, which have been developed following extensive consultation, will change that. They will help us to protect older people living in care homes, whilst promoting their health, welfare and quality of life.
'The publication of these standards today is a landmark development in this government's programme to improve the care of older people. However, I do recognise it is a time of change for the care home industry.
'We have listened to their concerns and have produced a sensible set of standards which give providers a reasonable time to adapt. In particular, certain changes to the physical environment of existing care homes will not take effect until 2007.
'Ultimately, the standards are all about making life better for people living in care homes. We are putting basic standards in place throughout the country so that people, and their families, know exactly what they can expect as a minimum from a care home.
'At the same time as publishing these new standards, the Government is working to develop a new Concordat with the care home sector to improve the commissioning of long term care and to maintain capacity and stability in the sector. This concordat should help people get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.'
The care home standards are the first in a series of standards and regulations to be published emanating from the Care Standards Act 2000. This major piece of legislation will transform the way in which social care and independent health care is regulated.
1. The standards apply to all care homes in England which provide accommodation and nursing or personal care for older people. There are 38 standards in all which come into effect on 1 April 2002, unless otherwise stated. The full set will be available on the department of health website.
2. There are approximately 364,000 older people in nursing homes and residential care homes in England.
The standards apply to all currently registered residential and nursing homes, and to all new facilities requiring registration as care homes. They also apply to all local authority care homes and to establishments currently exempted under the Registered Homes Act 1984, for example Charter Homes.
They do not apply to independent hospitals, hospices, clinics or establishments registered to take patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. Standards for these services are being developed separately.
3. The development of the national minimum standards for care homes for older people is part of the reforms the government is putting in place to modernise the current regulatory system for social services and nursing homes. The Care Standards Act 2000 will bring about these reforms including the establishment of the National Care Standards Commission which will regulate social services and private health care.
4. The consultation document - Fit For the Future? - was sent to a wide range of organisations representing users, providers, regulators and other interested parties. Altogether, around 1,250 comments were received.
5. In July 2000, the standards relating to room sizes were announced. A further announcement was made in November regarding shared rooms confirming that multi-occupancy rooms will have to be phased out by April 2002 but the standard for double rooms will not be introduced until April 2007, corresponding to the timescale for the new room size standard.
6. The government is providing significant additional resources for social services -increased funding of 12% in real terms since 1997 and agreed spending plans which will see further real terms increases of on average 3.4% per annum over the next three years. This compares with an average of just 0.1% increase over the last parliament.