In the United Kingdom, there are a number of legal issues that care homes must take into account. The most important of these is the registration of care homes with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This ensures that care homes meet certain standards of quality and safety. In addition, care homes must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, which protects the confidential information of residents. They must also follow the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination against residents on the basis of their protected characteristics.
Finally, care homes must adhere to the Health and Social Care Act 2008, which sets out the responsibilities of care providers. These legal issues are complex, but they are essential for ensuring that care homes provide a safe and high-quality environment for residents
This article will walk you through the current legal issues within the care home industry in the UK.
What licences does a care home need?
Here are the licenses you will require if you want to run a care home agency business venture.
Care home registration
Under health and social care legislation, your care home operates as a company engaging in ‘regulated activities’, which requires it to register with the relevant national registering authority. Periodically, your home will be inspected by the registering authority to ensure that it meets the statutory minimum standards. Registration is subject to an annual fee.
In the UK, there are the following national registering authorities:
- England – Care Quality Commission (CQC)
- Scotland – the Care Inspectorate
- Wales – Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW)
- Northern Ireland – the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)
When hiring care home workers there is are lists of people who are not permitted to work with children or vulnerable adults are maintained by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). A person on the barred list cannot be employed by you. Also, if you believe that someone working with children or vulnerable adults has harmed them or is likely to do so, you must notify the DBS. Visit the DBS website for more information. It is important to note that Scotland has its own but aligned ‘vetting and barring’ scheme.
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) registration is required for care home managers and social workers in adult residential and nursing homes. The NISCC website has more information.
Other licences and registrations required
You will need to register with your local authority environmental health department as a food business since you will be preparing and serving food. Details can be found by contacting your local authority. You will be inspected by them, and they will help you comply with food safety and hygiene laws. Registration is free.
The building must have a TV licence if there are any televisions. Home size and type, along with the presence of TV sets in each resident’s room, determine the tariffs. It is required that a full TV license be obtained for all communal areas, guest rooms, and staff accommodations. A concessionary licence for ‘accommodation for residential care’ (ARC) is required for each resident’s room (or flat or bungalow). In care homes with residents who are retired (over 60) or disabled, these are available at a reduced rate. For more information, please contact TV Licensing.
An organisation such as Filmbank can provide you with a public video screening licence (PVSL) if you screen films regularly. Care homes, for example, can screen unlimited films from participating studios to non-paying audiences in exchange for a single annual fee.
Care homes use music in a similar way to domestic settings, thus no PPL PRS Ltd Music Licence is required. There may, however, be a need for a license if residents are charged an entrance fee to formal performances.
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) registration may be required for health services businesses that maintain computerised records of individuals’ personal information. Visit the ICO website for more information.
Read more: Overview of the UK Care Home Market
Legislation of particular relevance to care homes
The activities of care homes are regulated by specific legislation throughout the UK. A statutory minimum standard is set for nursing and residential homes. A care home and its services are governed by these standards. Detailed information can also be found on the websites of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority in Northern Ireland (RQIA), and the Care Inspectorate in Scotland.
In Great Britain, nursing homes and residential care facilities must register with the Care Quality Commission in England, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland, and the Care Inspectorate in Wales. In Northern Ireland, care homes are required to register with the RQIA. In England, if a health and care provider engages in ‘regulated activities’, they must register with the Health and Care Register. A registered care home must be inspected by the registering bodies to ensure that minimum standards are being met. (There will be a new registration and inspection system in Wales from April 2018. It introduces new care standards for care homes. Domiciliary care workers will also be required to register by April 2020. You can find more information on the CIW website.)
A list of people barred from working with children and vulnerable adults is maintained by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Those on the barred list cannot be employed. You must also notify the DBS if you believe someone working with children or vulnerable adults has harmed them or is likely to harm them. The DBS website has more information.
NISCC-registered care staff and managers are required to work in Northern Ireland care homes.
Medications are supplied and used in nursing homes in accordance with regulations. Prescriptions for controlled medicines can only be made by qualified prescribers, and medicines must be stored and administered correctly. Visiting the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website will provide you with more information about managing medicines in care homes.
Other important legislation
In addition, the following legislation is particularly relevant:
- Mental Capacity Act: Persons with mental disabilities or disorders who lack the capacity to make informed decisions regarding their care or treatment are protected by the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. In order to ensure that vulnerable people in care are not being unlawfully detained, the Safeguards require care homes to examine the vulnerable people in their care. Visit Gov.uk for more information.
- Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: Employers must comply with fire safety regulations, which require them to assess their premises for fire risks and to take fire precautions. Among these are fire alarms, extinguishers, and clearly marked escape routes. It is a legal requirement to write down your fire risk assessment if you have five or more employees. It is your responsibility not only to ensure the safety of your staff and residents, but also of visitors and suppliers. Businesses can find several helpful guides from the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Gov.uk website has these available for download. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website provides information about fire regulations.
- Food Safety Act and regulations made under it: These cover all types of commercially prepared food which are safe, labelled, made up, prepared, and stored for human consumption. Food preparation and storage premises must be registered with the local authority’s environmental health department, which will inspect them. You must dispose of food waste properly if your business produces it.
- Legislation covering safe keeping, security and access to medical and personal information records
Your care home business may also be affected by special legislation in the following areas:
- Protection of the environment and waste disposal, particularly hazardous and clinical waste
- Using potentially hazardous equipment, such as X-ray machines
- Fair trade and consumer contracts
Employers are responsible for checking that anyone they hire can work in the UK. Employers who fail to make the necessary checks before employing illegal workers can be fined. The Gov.uk website has more information about preventing illegal work.
Health & Safety, fire
Legislation regarding fire safety and health and safety at work must be followed.
Residents and visitors to your premises will also need to be protected from harm.
Employment legislation must be followed by anyone who employs staff. In addition to employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, and employment policies, there is legislation concerning sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, and redundancies.
Insurance for a care home
Insurers or insurance brokers will be able to explain what insurance coverage is required by law, as well as what other insurance coverage you might want to consider. Among them are:
- Employer’s liability
- Public liability
- Medical malpractice
- Loss of registration
- Legal expenses
- Bad debt cover
- Employment disputes
- Building and contents
- Alternative accommodation
- Damage to residents’ belongings
- Business interruption
- Motor insurance for any business vehicles
It is important to note that residents must meet current fire safety standards if they bring their own furniture into the home. You’ll also be breaking the law if you furnish your home with non-compliant furnishings.
In the National Care Association’s Supplier Directory, you can find information about insurance companies that provide care home insurance.
Care home business owners face a number of legal issues. One of the most important is the need to obtain a license from the state in which they operate. This license ensures that the business meets all the necessary health and safety standards. In addition, care homes must comply with strict regulations regarding the care of residents.
These regulations include requirements for staff training, medication administration, and documentation of care plans. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines or even the loss of the license. Another legal issue that care home business owners must be aware of is the possibility of liability claims. Residents or their families may sue the care home if they feel that their loved ones have not been properly cared for. To protect against such claims, care homes must maintain adequate insurance coverage.
By understanding and complying with all applicable laws, care home business owners can help ensure that their businesses operate smoothly and efficiently without any future legal issues.
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