A coalition of 40 groups concerned with nursing care for the elderly opened a campaign yesterday for stronger federal inspection and regulation of nursing homes.

Last year these groups, with the aid of Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), blocked new regulations, proposed by the Reagan administration, that they contended would lead to a decline in nursing home conditions by removing annual inspection requirements for some homes.

In a report entitled "Consumer Statement of Principles" for licensing and regulation of nursing homes, the groups, led by the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, American Association of Retired Persons and American Public Health Association, laid out the concepts they said should govern federal regulation.

Nationwide, there are about 23,000 nursing and related care homes, with 1.4 million patients. In 1982, the nation spent $27 billion for nursing homes, and about a third of that came from federal Medicare and Medicaid payments, another $6 billion from state Medicaid payments.

Key points as outlined by Elma Holder and Barbara Frank of the citizens' coalition:

* The orientation of federal inspection and survey requirements for nursing homes should be changed, to focus on measuring "the actual quality of care patients receive" rather than simply on whether the homes meet rules that may or may not lead to adequate patient care. They should focus on solving as well as finding problems.

* The existing annual inspection requirement and annual review of how each patient is cared for should be continued, coordinated and funded adequately.

* The drafting of new regulations, plus gathering of information about quality and costs, should be opened to consumer, patient and public groups, and audits and cost reports should be made available to the public.

* Shutting down a problem home or cutting it off from federal funding should not be the only sanctions available; HHS should promulgate a rule allowing a moratorium on new admissions, placing facilities in receivership or imposing citations and penalties.

According to some estimates, these proposals could nearly double the $60 million to $70 million that inspections now cost each year.