NICE aims to drive up standards of care with new advice to improve mental wellbeing of older people in care homes

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is publishing new standards to help care homes tackle loneliness, depression and low self-esteem in older people[1].

With the number of older people in the UK set to rise to 16 million over the next 20 years[2] and more people living longer than ever before, NICE is advising that services should be configured to ensure they receive excellent care and support.

Professor Gillian Leng, Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: "As the UK prepares for the family-focused festivities of Christmas, NICE is issuing a timely reminder to care home staff not to forget about older people in their charge.

"Throughout the year, many people are looked after extremely well, but others may not be so fortunate. For instance, some care home workers may find it hard to look after someone who appears disengaged or depressed when actually all they might need is a little extra support to lead a more fulfilled life. A decline in mental wellbeing should not be viewed as an inevitable part of ageing."

In 2011, there were slightly more than 10 million people over the age of 65 living in the UK[3] with more than 400,000 living in care homes[4]. Care homes provide many people with the extra support they need, but many are still not providing care that is focused on an individual's needs[5].

The NICE standards recommend that older people in care homes are offered opportunities to participate in meaningful activities which promote health and mental wellbeing. In 2007, the Alzheimer's Society highlighted that care home residents do not have the opportunity to take part in enough activities to occupy their time. A lack of activity is one factor that can negatively affect a person's mental wellbeing.

The standard also addresses a problem that sometimes exists in older people gaining access to NHS services. It recommends that older people have the symptoms and signs of mental health conditions and physical problems recognised and recorded as part of their care plan, and that they have access to the full range of healthcare services when they need them.

Older people in care homes should also be supported to maintain and develop their personal identity. Focusing on the needs and wishes of an individual will help to promote dignity and respect and have a positive impact on their sense of identity and mental wellbeing.

Professor Leng added: "It's important for older people to feel secure, happy and empowered to take control of their care wherever possible to give them the best quality of life. We hope the standards we have published will give care homes the help they need to ensure they're providing consistent, high-quality support for every person in their care."

The standards have been developed by an independent committee involving specialists in social care (including a care home representative and a director of adult social services) and public health as well as people with their own experience of the social care system. They are available to view on the NICE website.


For more information call the NICE press office on 0845 003 7782 or out of hours on 07775 583 813.

Notes to Editors

About the NICE quality standard

The quality standard on the mental well-being of older people in care homes will be available from the NICE website from Thursday 12 December 2013. Embargoed copies are available upon request from the NICE press office.

This is the third quality standard produced as part of the Institute's new social care role.

NICE quality standards identify describe high-priority areas for quality improvement in a defined care or service area. They are derived either from NICE guidance or guidance from other sources that have been accredited by NICE, and apply across the NHS and/or social care in England.

The quality standard on the mental wellbeing of older people in residential care will, when published, consist of specific, concise and measurable statements that, when delivered collectively, should contribute to improving the effectiveness, quality, safety and experience of care of older people living in care homes.

About NICE

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent body responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. We develop guidance, standards and information on high-quality health and social care. We also advise on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.

Our aim is to help practitioners deliver the best possible care and give people the most effective treatments, which are based on the most up-to-date evidence and provide value for money, in order to reduce inequalities and variation.

Our products and resources are produced for the NHS, local authorities, care providers, charities, and anyone who has a responsibility for commissioning or providing healthcare, public health or social care services.

To find out more about what we do, visit our website: and follow us on Twitter: @NICEComms.

[1] Institute for Public Policy Research, Older people and wellbeing (2008)

[2] National population projections, 2010-based, Office for National Statistics, 2011. Taken from the Age UK factsheet Later Life in the United Kingdom (June 2013)

[3] Mid-2010 Population Estimates UK Office for National Statistics, 2011. Taken from the Age UK factsheet Later Life in the United Kingdom (June 2013)

[4] Age UK estimate calculated from Care of Elderly People Market Survey 2012/13, Laing and Buisson,

2013. Taken from the Age UK factsheet Later Life in the United Kingdom (June 2013)

[5] Alzheimer's Society, Home from Home (2007)

This page was last updated: 11 December 2013