Legislation to overhaul regulation of nursing homes

Legislation to overhaul regulation of nursing homes

Stephen Donnelly

Legislation is set to be drafted to bring the regulation of nursing homes in line with the recommendations of the Covid-19 nursing home expert panel report.

The Health (Amendment) Bill will make a number of amendments to the Health Act 2007, which provides for the regulation of designated centres for older persons (nursing homes), persons with disabilities and children in need of care and protection.

The expert report called for the enhancement and modernisation of powers and requirements within the regulatory framework governing nursing homes and the establishment of mandatory reporting to HIQA of key operational data by nursing homes to support service planning and policy development.

While the expert panel’s recommendations were in relation to centres for older persons only, the proposed new provisions are relevant across all designated centres covered by the Act and the intention is that they will, in the main, apply to them all.

The proposed legislation will:

  • introduce new powers for the Chief Inspector of Social Services to issue advance notices, non-compliance notices and obtain urgent orders through the courts, thereby providing a more agile and proportionate range of options for intervention to support compliance across the sector, complementing the current section 51 processes under the Act;
  • provide a new function for the Chief Inspector to establish and maintain a reporting mechanism for the collection of key data in relation to designated centres. The operation of the reporting mechanism, including the data to be collected and the frequency of collection will be determined by regulations under a new section 101A;
  • reduce timelines for decisions initiated under section 51 to expedite the current system of imposing conditions on registration or cancelling registration and to maintain consistency with the current District Court Rules to bring motions to appeal; and
  • provide a clear legal basis for the Chief Inspector to enter and inspect a premises which is unregistered if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that the business of a designated centre is being carried on.

A small number of other amendments to the Act to provide clarification or enhancement to existing provisions including:

  • providing an express power for the Chief Inspector to remove a condition attached to registration of a designated without an application from the registered provider;
  • providing an express provision for the sharing of information by the Chief Inspector with HIQA;
  • making it an offence to provide false or misleading information to the Chief Inspector; and
  • expressly placing the burden of proof on the registered provider in relation to proceedings for offences if he or she is relying on the defence of reasonable excuse.

Health minister Stephen Donnelly said: “I am pleased to be bringing forward this legislation which represents another important step in the implementation of recommendations of the Nursing Home Expert Panel Report. I believe the proposals will drive improvements in the quality and safety of care for the benefit of residents, their families and the sector as a whole.

“The proposed legislation is the first phase of a two-phased approach to reform the regulatory framework governing nursing homes. The second phase, a wider review of the nursing home regulatory model, due to commence later this year will consider a programme of longer-term strategic reform options, including pandemic learning.”

Mary Butler, minister for mental health and older people, said: “This legislation will bring improvements to the regulatory framework and will build on the investments made over the last number of years to increase HIQA’s staffing capacity in this area.

“It will strengthen and improve the tools available to the Chief Inspector to make proportionate interventions to protect residents. Furthermore, the reporting requirements aim to aid more integrated national planning across the sector and to improve overall transparency for current and future residents.”

Share icon
Share this article: