Shared misconceptions

care home residents can still share a bedroom in a care home if they want.
Chris Caple sorts out the confusion over the new national minimum standards and
the question of minimum room size.

the new national minimum standards for residetial care put an end to shared
bedrooms in care homes?

the consultation process for the national minimum standards in care homes for
older people is to all intents and purposes done and dusted, heated debate
about their implications is ongoing.

standards were announced in March 2001 with a view to most being implemented
from 1 April 2002. They include minimum standards relating to choice of home, a
variety of health and personal care matters, daily life and social activities,
complaints procedures and protection, the environment of homes, staffing and
management, and administrative procedures and safeguards.

will be regulated by a new independent body called the National Care Standards
Commission, which is currently taking shape.

most earnest debate has centred on the standards coming under the heading of
environment, in particular the space requirements for each resident or service
user’s accommodation.

residential and nursing home providers are claiming that the investment required
to provide rooms that meet the new minimum floor space requirements will put
them out of business. The government is saying that these providers have been
given enough time to make the appropriate changes, and has set longer deadlines
for those standards which require the most work to implement.

may or may not be room for negotiation on this. As reported in Community Care
("Ready for Take-Off?", 2 August), the standards were initially
touted as non-negotiable, with an aside that the "local discretion"
cited in the Care Standards Act 2000 would be minimal.

recently, however, the National Care Standards Commission has adopted a much
less dictatorial stance and has started talking about what is pragmatic and
using words such as "partnership".

debate about the minimum size of rooms has led many of the other standards to
be viewed in either over-simplified ways, or to be misinterpreted. As a result,
one myth that has developed among providers and health and social care
professionals is that the new standards will outlaw shared rooms. This is not
the case.

misconception was highlighted when I was quizzed by someone concerned about an
elderly client living in a private residential care home. The client has shared
a bedroom with another woman of a similar age and background for three years
and the women have formed a close friendship and are happy sharing. The worker
was worried about what would happen were they forced apart.

answer was that the implementation of the minimum national standards need not
affect the client’s current living arrangements at all.

23.7 states: "Where rooms are shared, they are occupied by no more than
two service users who have made a positive choice to share with each

is, however, the issue of whether the double room the client shares meets the
new minimum space requirement (16 square metres). There is also a standard that
says from 1 April 2007 existing homes that do not provide 80 per cent of places
in single rooms must do so.

if the client lives in a home that doesn’t meet this standard, then some of the
double rooms will have to be converted into singles. But this need not affect
the elderly friends as long as their wish to continue sharing a room has been
communicated to the owner or manager of their home. C

Caple is assistant director, Anchor Trust.

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