Care home standards

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All care homes should provide residents with a clean, safe, stimulating environment, in which they're treated with dignity and respect.

If you feel that your care home, or that of your relative, does not, you can take action.

The standards that all care homes are expected to meet are detailed in the Care Homes Regulations 2001 and the Department of Health’s National Minimum Standards for Care Homes (see Useful links).

These standards cover every aspect of your experience of your care home. They guarantee your right to a clean and suitable physical environment, good food, choice of social and cultural activities and proper personal and nursing care.

Care homes are inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) (see Useful links). Any care home should provide you with a copy of their most recent CQC inspection report on request.

Before choosing a care home you should visit to look around and ask questions. Once you’ve decided on a care home it should offer a trial period.

When you make your choice your chosen home should draw up a care plan, setting out how they will meet your needs.

A clear written contract should also be drawn up. This sets out the price you'll pay for your place, and the services the home will provide. It should also make clear the services it won’t provide, and those for which you may have to pay extra, together with the terms and conditions and responsibilities of both parties. It should specify how you'll pay for the service, for example, by direct debit.

You should receive copies of the care plan and the contract.

The physical environment

Your care home should be clean, hygienic and safe. It should provide adequate space and facilities so that you're comfortable and can take part in activities of your choosing.

  • It should provide you with a furnished room of your own, and you should be allowed to have your own furnishings and possessions with you if you wish.
  • It should provide you with access to safe and attractive outside space.
  • If you require adaptations to your room, for example wheelchair ramps, these should be made.
  • There should be communal space (separate from your own and other residents' rooms) for eating and social and cultural activities.
  • There should be a toilet close to your private room, and proper bathroom facilities for all residents, including those in wheelchairs or with otherwise limited mobility.

Your health: dignity and privacy

Your care home must provide you with proper personal or nursing care. Your physical and psychological health should be monitored, and appropriate action taken whenever necessary.

  • The personal or nursing care you'll receive must be set out in your care plan (you should be given a copy).
  • You should be treated with dignity and respect by staff, who should address you in the manner you choose.
  • You should be able to be responsible for your own medicines if you wish and where possible.
  • Your privacy should be respected. Doors should not be left open, for example, when you're being helped with washing or dressing. Staff should knock before entering your room, except during an emergency. Medical consultation and treatment should be administered in your own room or in private.
  • You should be able to speak to medical or legal professionals in confidence, and have access to a telephone that you can use in private.

Day-to-day life

Care home routines governing food and day-to-day life should be flexible. You should be able to choose food and mealtimes, recreation and cultural activities, socialising and visits from relatives and religious observances.

  • Food should be of a good standard, and take preferences such as vegetarianism or religious requirements into account.
  • Hot and cold drinks and snacks should be available at any time.
  • Your daily routine, including when you get up and go to bed, when you eat and when you take part in leisure and recreational activities, should be of your choosing, and not dictated by the home.
  • You should be allowed to receive visitors whenever you want to.
  • There should be opportunity for stimulating recreation and cultural activities. Particular attention should be paid to those with mental and physical disabilities, to ensure they have opportunity for recreation.

Taking action

The National Minimum Standards cover many aspects of life in a care home in detail. If you feel that your care home, or the care home of your relative, is not meeting one of the standards, you can take action to change this.

The first step is to tell staff at your care home. The sooner you do this, the better. Often, if you’re unhappy with something, it can easily be solved with an informal chat. Staff should be happy to talk about whatever is on your mind, and to do their best to help.

If that doesn’t work, speak to the manager of your care home. All homes are required by law to have a formal complaints procedure. This will probably involve putting your complaint in writing. (Help with doing that should be available if you need it.) If there is a resident’s committee at your home, you can take the matter to them as well.

If the care home's response doesn't satisfy you, you can take your complaint to the CQC. It is responsible for ensuring that all care homes in England meet the legal obligations. If it finds that your care home is not, it will take action.

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