A new era in protecting older people will begin in Ireland today (1 July) as the independent inspection of all nursing homes commences nationwide.
The Health Information and Quality Authority will be responsible for the registration and inspection of all residential care services for older people. For the first time HSE run centres, as well as private and voluntary nursing homes, will be subject to independent registration and inspection.
Nursing homes will be inspected against the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland and regulated under the Health Act 2007 to see if they are safe and whether the residents are cared for properly. These standards place the resident at the centre of the process and work on the basis that the centre is the person’s home.
The standards, which were mandated by the Minister for Health in Children in March this year, were developed by the Authority in consultation with a wide variety of people, including those who use the services and those who provide them - nursing homes residents and their representatives, the Health Service Executive, professional organisations, advocacy organisations, and voluntary and private providers.
They cover everyday practical concerns for people living in these centres such as the quality of care provided, how people are protected from abuse, how privacy is respected, what mealtimes should be like and whether a person-centred care plan is in place for each resident.
Dr Marion Witton, Chief Inspector of Social Services at the Health Information and Quality Authority, said “this new development in the regulation of nursing homes is a significant step forward in the protection of the rights of older people living in residential care settings across the country. Residents, relatives and the public will know what to expect in a residential care setting, regardless of where the service is located or who delivers it.”
“Our aim is to safeguard and drive improvements in the quality of life of older people by emphasising what life should be like for people living in residential care,” she said.
Services will only be allowed to operate if they are registered by the Social Services Inspectorate and they will be inspected regularly to ensure they maintain a high level of care.
If the Health Information and Quality Authority’s inspectors find that a service is unsafe or the standards are not being met, the Chief Inspector will have the legal power to take a number of actions in the best interest of the residents. These include requiring changes to the service be made, prosecuting for offences under the Health Act 2007 or cancelling registration of a centre - so it will no longer be able to operate.
Inspections will begin across the country in the coming months. They will take place at any time during the day or night and may be either announced or unannounced.
The registration and inspection process will be completely independent and reports will be published after every inspection. “We will report publicly on what it is like to be a resident in each centre. As well as their protection and safety, we are also concerned with the quality of life of individual residents. If they have choices about what time they get up in the morning, what food they eat, how their day is spent. The things that are important to every one of us in our daily lives are no less important to those living in residential care. It is our role to promote the rights of individuals and ensure that all residents are treated with dignity and respect,” Dr Witton said.
All inspection reports will be available to download from the Health Information and Quality Authority’s website, www.hiqa.ie.