New care home nursing standards for England

Education and practice standards have been published for nurses working in care homes throughout England for the first time. The move represents recognition of the complex nature of working in such an environment and its importance to the wellbeing of the nation’s elderly.

The standards were created by the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) and Skills for Care to help registered nurses as they transition into the home care sector. NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned the work to ensure older residents’ needs are fully met.

It’s hoped that rolling out these standards will serve a dual purpose, attracting more registered nurses to the sector and ensuring those who start working in care homes are fully equipped in terms of knowledge and skills.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance and complexity of elderly care like never before. That’s why these new standards could not have come at a better time and reflect a new-found respect for those working in the sector.

Sharon Aldridge-Bent, director of nursing programmes at the QNI, said: "There has been a realisation across the health and care sector that nursing staff working in care homes support a unique area of practice and a very high level of responsibility in delivering care in settings that are complex and can involve multiple issues of physical and mental health dependency among residents.

“This has been brought into even sharper focus by the pandemic and we have seen a greater focus on care homes than ever before in the past year."

While the new standards are voluntary, they’re likely to be adopted by individual nurses, care home groups and employers. They will also be available to higher education institutions to help them ensure anyone entering the sector is well-versed in their responsibilities and the quality of care expected of them.

The standards are split into four areas: clinical care; leadership and management; facilitation of learning; and evidence, research and development. They are accompanied by a practice portfolio that could prove useful for new recruits to work through with a mentor upon starting a role in a care home.

Publishing the standards shows a commitment to supporting better consistency in skills across all of England’s care homes. Skills for Care, the strategic workforce body for adult social care in England, has also said it may help to address the issue of vacancies in care homes not being filled due to a lack of suitable applicants.

Oonagh Smyth, chief executive of Skills for Care, said: “We still have high vacancy rates for nurses so these new standards will help attract registered nurses to choose to work in care homes and make a smooth transition into roles that we know offer a huge degree of professional and personal job satisfaction.”