Photo of David Amess

David Amess (Southend West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a) primary and (b) secondary legislation covers the care provided to residents in care homes for the elderly; what changes are planned during the next 12 months; how his Department currently enforces these obligations; what representations he has received since January 2007 on this legislation; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ivan Lewis

Ivan Lewis (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Care Services), Department of Health; Bury South, Labour)

The primary legislation governing the quality and safety of care provided to residents in care homes is the Care Standards Act 2000. The secondary legislation is the National Care Standards Commission (Registration) Regulations 2001 and the Care Homes Regulations 2001.

The Care Homes Regulations are accompanied by the "Care Homes for Older People National Minimum Standards" (NMS)—aged 65 or over (copies of this publication have already been placed in the Library). The NMS are not statutory requirements—compliance with them is not enforceable. However, compliance with the regulations is, subject to the NMS being taken into account by the regulator, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI). The Care Homes Regulations apply to all providers, whether in the private, voluntary or public sectors.

No changes are planned to the legislation during the next 12 months.

The Care Standards Act established the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) as the regulator of care homes, with responsibility for enforcement of the regulations. The NCSC began work on 1 April 2002.

The Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 established CSCI as the independent inspectorate for all social care services in England. CSCI was created as a legal entity on 1 January 2004 and became fully operational on 1 April 2004, when the functions of the NCSC were transferred to it.

CSCI is more independent of Government than the NCSC was. Its Chair and Commissioners are appointed by the NHS Appointments Commission. It presents its annual report direct to Parliament, rather than the Department, and it is not required to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State.

CSCI regulates, registers and inspects all social care providers, including care homes, in England. It is unlawful to carry on a care home without being registered, unless the case comes within prescribed exceptions. CSCI has a range of powers, ranging from statutory improvement notices to immediate closure of a service which it uses proportionately to ensure providers comply with regulations.

Subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, all health and adult social care providers that come within the scope of registration will be required to register with the new regulator of health and social care services, the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC will be established later this year. It will begin its work in April 2009, when it will assume responsibility for healthcare associated infections in respect of national health service providers and take on the duties of the Mental Health Act Commission. In April 2010, it will assume the responsibilities of CSCI and the Healthcare Commission.

The establishment of the CQC will give patients and service users confidence in the safety and quality of whichever service they use. For the first time, there will be a single coherent set of national safety and quality requirements and regulations for all providers of health and adult social care services.

The CQC will embody the Government's principles of good regulation to give people the best and safest care and the best possible outcomes for public money. It will reduce the burden of public service inspection, while applying a coherent approach to regulation for all types of health and adult social care providers.

The Department has received a range of representations on the regulation of care homes since January 2007. Of particular relevance is the recently conducted formal consultation on the future framework for the registration of health and social care providers.

A total of around 230 responses was received and officials are now analysing them. A consultation response will be published in due course. Subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, the consultation response will inform regulations on the scope of regulation and the requirements for registration with the new CQC. It is the intention that these will come into force in 2010.

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