Ban food is the top complaint of 15,000 nursing home residents, in the biggest survey of aged care by federal government inspectors.

News Corp Australia can reveal 16 per cent of aged care residents - or one in six - like the food some or none of the time.

Of elderly residents, 30 per cent say staff do not always meet their healthcare needs, and 20 per cent of residents do not always feel safe.

More than a quarter of residents said staff did not always treat them with respect.

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said nursing homes "need to work harder to ensure that all Australians receiving aged care feel safe at all times''.

For the first time, government inspectors surveyed 15,000 residents during quality checks on nursing homes during 2017-18.

About 30 residents confided they "never feel safe'' in aged care.

Food is a major concern for residents in aged care homes.
Food is a major concern for residents in aged care homes.

Nursing homes spend an average of $6 a day to feed residents - less than is spent feeding prisoners.

Government inspectors surveyed 12 per cent of nursing home residents at random, to ask about safety, staff quality and food.

More inspectors will swoop on homes unannounced next year, as the Morrison government trebles the number of unannounced accreditation audits.

Previously, aged care homes were given several months' notice of an inspection, making it harder for auditors to spot abuse or neglect.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered a Royal Commission into aged care abuse, to report its initial findings by October.

It will also merge the existing Aged Care Complaints Commission with the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency on January 1, to form a new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

But the boss of the new agency, Janet Anderson, yesterday denied there was a widespread problem in aged care.

"There is not a problem of quality universally,'' she said.

"We have some providers who aren't fulfilling their responsibilities.''

Last week the federal government issued the first new quality standards for aged care in 20 years, requiring nursing homes to treat residents with "dignity and respect: and provide levels of care that are "safe and right''.

Ms Anderson said the new standards - to be in force by July next year - would improve the care of high-need residents.

"We have an older cohort of frailer people with higher rates of dementia,'' she said.

"The new standards reflect a greater attention to the clinical needs of this cohort

'The current standards are a bit light-touch in some of the areas.''