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Care homes could be saved - hope

PUBLISHED: 14:26 23 August 2002 | UPDATED: 12:31 03 March 2010

OLD folks' homes across Suffolk could be saved from closure, if the government decides they don't need to comply with strict new standards.

New National Minimum Standards forcing homes to upgrade facilities - including allowing 4sq m of room space for residents - have proved costly and been blamed for many homes closing down.

OLD folks' homes across Suffolk could be saved from closure if the government decides they don't need to comply with strict new standards.

New national minimum standards, forcing homes to upgrade facilities – including allowing 4sq m of room space for residents – have proved costly and been blamed for many homes closing down.

By October last year, more than 30 Suffolk residential and care homes had closed within three and a half years.

But now Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, has announced plans to consult care home owners over some of the standards.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said it was too early to say how any changes would affect the future of any homes currently under threat.

Paul Jell, Suffolk County Council assistant director social care services (development), said: "We welcome any changes leading to a more progressive time scale which would allow standards to be implemented with greater flexibility and possibly prevent the closure of care homes.

"It is vital that high standards in care homes are pursued in order to ensure older people are cared for in a safe and comfortable environment."

Anne Parker, chairwoman of the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) which registers and inspects homes, welcomed a recent injection of £70 million for training of social care staff, but added: "The introduction of the standards has coincided with an increase in concern about care home closures.

"The physical standards are regularly cited as a particular cause for concern so the NCSC wrote to providers encouraging them to contact us to share their views.

"The NCSC has not, and would not, close a care home solely because it does not meet the physical standards. That would run counter to the guidance issued by ministers earlier this year and would fly in the face of the flexible and sensitive regulatory approach we have adopted.

"If this consultation reassures care providers that they do not have to close solely because of the standards, then this would be a positive outcome.

"There is a danger though, that providers will receive mixed signals from this announcement. The hard-core of providers who have let the sector down over many years by delivering poor standards to their residents may take comfort, sit back and then do nothing to bring their facilities up to a decent standard.

"On the other hand, the many excellent care providers who are making great efforts to refurbish and upgrade their facilities may feel undermined."

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