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The current “scandal” of failing care homes for the elderly and disabled in the UK should be of concern to us all.
The number of residents living in these failing homes is believed to be at least 100,000. The care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has disclosed for the first time that 4,000 out of 18,000 homes have been judged “non-compliant” on at least one of the 16 new minimum standards that include a requirement for safe and effective waste management.
There is, of course, much guidance concerning the required approach to and standards for waste management in care homes and elsewhere. Bringing this all together, a new inspection regime was introduced last October, under which homes must meet basic minimum standards in 16 areas, including protection from abuse, cleanliness, safe management of medicines and respect for residents’ dignity.
In the last few weeks, CQC inspectors judged one nursing home in Bristol to be failing on 11 out of 16 standards, with clinical waste bins “overflowing” and some residents suffering “pain and injury” followed by delays in treatment.
For many care homes, cost constraints are severe. A penny saved here or there protects the bottom line and this will, I am sure, encourage down-regulation of wastes in order to secure the lowest price for disposal. Deliberate down-regulation including perhaps a failure to make satisfactory and sufficient risk assessment of waste characteristics to permit correct classification, and failure to provide safe and secure storage of wastes are common in this sector. That is a matter for the Environment Agency though I doubt that they have given it the slightest thought.
The parallel issue is of waste storage. Too often, bulk wastes are piled at the front of nursing and care homes. This is often justified on the basis of space, ease of uplift etc. But these establishments are the home of each of the residents and their social role valorisation must be protected. That cannot be maintained unless the home is a home, meeting the norms of appearance that do not place piles of waste in bright yellow bins adorned with hazard warnings at the front door.