Better Oversight Needed In Homes For Older People

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 24 February 2011

Reference: PAC 07/10/11

Ensuring that residential care and nursing home provision for older people provides the best quality of care and value for money must be at the heart of all monitoring arrangements. That message comes as the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee publishes its latest Report on arrangements to ensure the quality of care in of residential care and nursing homes for older people. The delivery of institutional care for older people currently costs the taxpayer in the region of £265 million per year.

Speaking at the launch of the Report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said: “It is clear that t he majority of older people want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. In practice, this means developing and offering appropriate domiciliary care to older people as a real alternative to institutional care. Despite claims by the Department that the balance of provision is shifting from institutional to care in the home, much more needs to be done.

“It is always hard for families to take a decision for a loved one to go into residential care. But this decision is made more difficult when relevant information about the quality of homes available is not accessible or is incomplete.”

In its report, the Committee recognised that the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) ensures minimum standards are met, in its role as inspector. However, the Committee felt that RQIA could do more to provide information on the quality of homes and impose sanctions where they underperform.

Paul Maskey continued: “The Committee has strong reservations about the effectiveness of announced inspections in providing a sound basis for evaluating standards of care in homes for older people. We are recommending that RQIA should shift the emphasis of its inspection approach so that it carries out more frequent and unannounced inspections.”

The Committee recommended that, in future, information is gathered and presented in a way which shows whether the sector’s performance had improved.

The Chairperson concluded by saying: “We need to remember that older people are potentially among the most vulnerable in society. I would therefore hope that, in response to this report and its recommendations, the Department and RQIA both take the opportunity to improve the experience of all stakeholders involved in the provision of care for older people.”

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