Today, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an overview report on the chief inspector’s regulation of designated centres for older persons in 2020 and 2021.
Inspectors conducted 947 inspections of nursing homes in 2020 and 2021, during which time the nursing home sector faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these challenges, the overall findings of these inspections “show a high level of regulatory compliance”, HIQA said, with nursing homes found to be either compliant or substantially compliant with 85% of the regulations that were assessed.
Inspections also identified areas for improvement such as fire safety, governance and management, premises and infection control.
Susan Cliffe, HIQA’s deputy chief inspector of social services, said: “Our programme of inspections during 2020 and 2021 found that most nursing homes were providing a good service to residents and were focused on delivering good quality care.
“Faced with unprecedented challenges, nursing homes endeavoured to keep their residents as safe as possible.
“Overall, it is encouraging to see such high levels of compliance with the regulations while also acknowledging that areas of concern previously identified remain and need improvement.”
The pandemic significantly impacted on the lives of residents. Residents living in nursing homes expressed their thanks for the care and support of staff for keeping them safe and for helping them to recover from illness.
Understandably, however, many residents also expressed feeling frustrated and lonely when visiting restrictions did not allow their families and friends to come and see them.
Throughout our inspection, we found that residents, their families, staff and providers showed great resilience throughout these challenging times and demonstrated that they were able to successfully adapt to different way of life.
The rollout of the national vaccination programme in December 2020 was a turning point for residents.
They were prioritised to receive the vaccine first and they responded with a very high uptake, showing determination to get back to enjoying their lives with their fellow residents, families and friends.
Cliffe continued: “We listened intently to what residents and their families told us about the care they received and the isolation they felt at times when visiting was restricted on public health grounds, and the voice of residents is very clearly reflected in this report.
“We were able to use this feedback to inform the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive and nursing home providers about the impact that visiting restrictions were having on residents in order to assist the national effort to normalise visiting in nursing homes.”
The challenges experienced during the pandemic further highlight the need for regulatory reform.
HIQA has previously called for the chief inspector to be provided with the necessary legal powers to drive improvements in the nursing home sector, and to take appropriate action to protect residents from harm when serious risks are identified.
Cliffe concluded: “The challenges of the last two years, including the trend of smaller nursing home closures, have reiterated the need to properly plan for how older people should receive care into the future. We will continue to work with the Minister for Health and the Department of Health to ensure that the best possible care is provided to nursing home residents at all times.”