Nursing home inspectors 'seriously understaffed'

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The Independent Online
ELDERLY people in private nursing homes and hospitals may be suffering because health authority inspectors are too overstretched to guarantee standards, according to a report published by the Royal College of Nursing yesterday.

A survey into how health authorities inspect private nursing care in England and Wales suggests that the inspection teams are seriously understaffed and underfunded. In one health authority, one full-time and two part-time inspectors were required to inspect 167 homes with more than 4,000 beds.

This contrasted with another authority which made monitoring private care a priority and where one full-time and one part-time inspector covered just seven premises with 269 beds.

Backing the RCN's call for a national audit of how nursing homes are inspected and regulated, David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said the survey confirmed the Government was showing 'appalling neglect' of standards in private nursing homes and hospitals.

The findings will fuel the controversy over who should pay for continuing care and how nursing homes should be regulated, and question the quality of care elderly people can expect. The report includes concerns that:

Checks on people in charge of private nursing homes are not adequate and some inspectors fail to make basic police checks.

No unannounced visits are being made in health authorities, making a mockery of the supervision process by allowing nursing homes to cover up in advance any shortfalls in standards of care.

Nursing home inspectors can face conflicts of interest if the home they are inspecting also has a continuing care contract with the inspectors's own health authority.

An Inspector Calls is available free from the RCN's publications department at 20 Cavendish Square, London W1M OAB.

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