Minister promises concessions in care home standards

Health minister Jacqui Smith admitted there would be concessions
in the final version of the national minimum standards for care
homes for younger adults, during a House of Commons
debate, writes Jonathan Pearce.

Smith said the limits on the numbers of residents in homes, and
the size of groupings within homes, would be “modified
accordingly”, while standards on shared toilets and bathrooms would
be looked at “closely”, including the possibility of extending the
time limit for compliance with the standards.

“In other words, we are willing to reconsider when people make a
good case, but what still matters most is that service users live
in as homely and comfortable an environment as possible,” said

The draft standards suggested that new homes should accommodate
up to 16 people in groups of eight, with existing larger homes
expected to comply by 2007, the principle being to organise
establishments into friendlier environments rather than large,
impersonal institutions.

But many of those who responded to the department of health
consultation said the numbers were too low, particularly for homes
working in the substance misuse sector. Such residents tend to stay
for limited periods of treatment, and some treatments depended on
groups of 10 or more residents living and working through their
therapy together.

“The limits will rise, and there will be some extra leeway for
shorter-term stays,” said Smith.

The draft standards also suggested one toilet for each two
residents and one bathroom for three people, in both cases adjacent
to bedrooms. Many people said the standards were too high,
according to Smith, who believed a “sensible compromise” could be

Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon, who secured the
debate, said there were concerns that the proposed standards may
force homes, “especially those in the smallish category”, to close
because of the need to make adaptations and alterations which they
cannot afford, such as phasing out shared rooms, providing more
shared bathrooms and toilets, and reducing the number of people
using other shared facilities.

He called for “some flexibility” in the interpretation of the
standards, where there were good reasons behind the failure to meet

“There is a danger that in the laudable attempt to raise
standards, we are over-prescriptive,” he said. “The key question is
how much discretion or flexibility the (National Care Standards
Commission) inspectors will have?”




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