Nursing home inspections set to begin

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

by CARL O’BRIEN

INDEPENDENT INSPECTIONS of all public and private nursing homes will officially come into force from today as part of a new initiative to promote better standards of care.

A team of about 45 inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will be responsible for monitoring standards in 600 nursing homes which accommodate some 25,000 older people.

Up until now only private nursing homes have been subject to inspections which were carried out by the Health Service Executive. There was no obligation to inspect public facilities.

It will be the first time that both public and private nursing homes will be subject to inspections by an independent, authority.

The new system will involve announced and unannounced inspections of nursing homes and the policing of standards which set out the rights of residents.

These standards will significantly change the focus of inspections.

Instead of “one size fits all” staffing ratios, for example, the emphasis will be on ensuring patients are being looked after properly and that individual needs are being met.

The rights include entitlement to protection, safe and respectful care; ensuring a minimum of 50 per cent of care staff have acquired further education or training; that individual care plans are in place for aTI residents; allowing each resident to choose meals and meal times.

Dr Marion Witton, chief inspector of social services at Hiqa, said the new inspection regime will focus heavily on the experiences of residents themselves.

“Our ethos is to listen to people in nursing homes and carry out inspections from the point of view of the resident, such as what it’s like to be in the home, do they feel safe, can they choose what time to get up in the morning,” she said.

“The things that are important to every one of us in our daily lives are no less important to those living in residential care.”

The new regime will also make it easier to close down nursing homes which place residents at risk due to poor standards of care. Until now, it has often proved a long and difficult process for health authorities to close doWn such homes.

However, nursing homes will only be allowed to continue operating from now on if they are registered by Hiqa’s inspectors. If inspectors find that a service is unsafe or the standards are not being met, the chief inspector will have the legal power to close down the home, prosecute the owner or arrange for new management to take it over.

Dr Witton declined to say how many inspections a nursing home may expect per year, except to say that inspections will be “proportionate”.

“We will visit those homes which we have concerns about more often, compared to those which have good records,” she said.

“The inspections will take place day or night, at weekends or on weekdays, announced or unannounced. The benefit of announced inspections is that residents and families can come to us, as they’ll have prior notice. Spot checks can sometimes be difficult for residents and their families.”

She said inspectors will report publicly on what it is like to be a resident in each centre.

,While the new standards come into force from today, older nursing homes will be given up to six years to end the use of outdated practices such as the use of open wards.

This is likely to pose a major challenge for the HSE, which operates a number of public nursing homes which will require extensive renovations.