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Standards aim to end elderly abuse
A carer helps an elderly lady walk
The government says all carers' references should be checked
Abuse of elderly people in England and Wales will be eliminated under plans to improve standards in residential and nursing care, the government has pledged.

Health minister John Hutton said draft national rules on improving care standards in both the public and private sector would make "horror stories of badly run homes a thing of the past".

Long term care
He was speaking at the launch of a consultation paper, Fit for the Future?, which sets out a range of "robust, measurable and enforceable standards in homes for the elderly".

But independent care home owners are worried the measures could lead to home closures and are calling for a compensation package if they are pushed through.

The paper covers elderly people's right to be consulted about their care, to be treated with dignity in the area of personal care, to have a minimum size of bedroom and the choice of a single room and to be given a choice of healthy food.

The paper also sets out standards for the recruitment and training of care staff, including a duty to check references.

In addition, the government is working on a training course for care home managers so that they can obtain professional qualifications which acknowledge their experience.

It says these will help the public to make choices about which care home to opt for.

Commissions for care standards

The standards will be overseen by eight new regionally-based independent Commissions for Care Standards.

Launching the paper, which is out to consultation until 3 December and was drawn up by the Centre for Policy on Ageing, Mr Hutton said: "Older people deserve to live in dignity.

"For the thousands of people too frail to live in their own homes it is vitally important to have effective rules to make life in residential and nursing homes a pleasure, not a penance."

There are 13,000 residential and 4,600 nursing homes in England alone. The majority are independent.

An elderly women in a wheelchair
The media has focused on reports of abuse of the elderly
Elderly and care home organisations welcomed the concentration on improving quality, but called for more resources to be made available.

The National Care Homes Association (NCHA) said there was too much focus on room sizes, which it says are easier to measure than quality care.

"I have never heard that the size of a bedroom harmed anyone, but lack of training does," said Sheila Scott, head of the association.

She added that some care homes would have difficult complying with minimum room sizes, to be set at 10 square metres, and would be forced to close.

The NCHA is calling for urgent negotiations with Health Secretary Frank Dobson to discuss a compensation package for care home owners if the measures go ahead.

"If we were farmers culling sheep or cattle there would be a compensation package," said Ms Scott.

The announcement over care home standards comes after consultation ended on another initiative to improve long-term care.

The draft long-term care charter sets out what people can expect from housing, social services and health agencies and how they should be treated.

See also:

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