Chinese nursing homes set new standards

The ISO member for China, SAC, has set its sights on the country’s growing elderly population with new national standards to improve quality of care homes.

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By Barnaby Lewis
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China has seen rapid increases in prosperity and quality of life over the last few decades, but that has presented new concerns. With improved nutrition and access to medical care, as well as better awareness of health issues like smoking, the Chinese are living longer than ever before. It’s a positive development, but providing adequate levels of professional geriatric care is a growing challenge.

As in many Western countries, China has seen a tendency for highly mobile younger people to gravitate towards cities and jobs. Without the support of nearby family, an increasing number of people will have to rely on nursing homes in old age. In fact, more than 18 % of China’s population is over 60 years old. That’s an astonishing 250 million people, many of whom might need professional care, putting pressure on the sector to expand rapidly. Until recently, the lack of a harmonized approach has left open the door to variations in quality of care between homes. Thanks to a new national standard, that’s about to change.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), together with SAC, set about improving the way that care is delivered with the release of GB 38600-2019 – Basic specification of service safety for senior care organization

A spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), which was heavily involved in the development and promotion of the standard, explains that “this is the first mandatory national standard in the field of elderly care. Care home operators in China will have a transition period, until 1 January 2022, to fully implement it”. China is noteworthy for its use of standards to replace complex legislation: around 2 100 Chinese national standards (about 5 % of the total) have been written into law.

The MCA explains that every effort is being taken to ensure that no one is left behind. “During the first part of a three-pronged approach, Chinese authorities are working hard to raise awareness of the new standard. The second phase will see support given to care homes during implementation, whilst the third and final step will be to make sure that all operators are following the standard correctly.” Law enforcement agents will use a simplified check-list to ensure compliance of care homes. 

The main benefits are to care home residents, but the new standard also streamlines administrative processes, replacing the need for individual operating licences to be issued on a case-by-case basis. According to the MCA, the standard comprises seven parts, which include: common requirements, safety risk assessment, protective services and management requirements.

GB 38600 is designed to work together with two existing standards. The basic levels of service are defined by GB/T 35796-2017 – Basic specification of service quality for senior care organization, while the way in which nursing homes are graded is covered by GB/T 37276-2018 – Classification and accreditation for senior care organization. “Together, the standards will play a vital role in promoting the development and prosperity of China’s elderly care services industry,” says the MCA.

Barnaby Lewis
Barnaby Lewis

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