Care home provision to hit crisis levels within this parliament says Which?

Almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places emerging by 2022 unless urgent action is taken, according to new research by the consumer organisation Which?

Analysis of care home data from across England indicates that 87% of councils responsible for providing social care may not have enough places to meet potential demand by 2022, highlighting a looming local crisis in care home provision.

This shortfall is predicted to be particularly acute in 14 local authority areas, which, according to Which?’s modelling, could face a shortfall of 25% or more in the number of care home places needed. Half of these are London boroughs.

According to the analysis, Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, is set to see the biggest shortfall with 53% more care places needed by 2022 than are currently available. Lewisham (48%), Harringey (38%), Hartlepool (35%) and Milton Keynes (33%) are also predicted to fall significantly short in providing enough places in five years’ time if the rate of extra provision isn’t increased.

Overall the research – which compared elderly care bed counts (in each upper tier local authority area based on Care Quality Commission data) that would be provided if the current trend continues with the beds required in each upper tier local authority area to keep the existing provision per 80+ population (based on ONS population projections) – shows there will be an estimated shortfall of 42,000 elderly care home beds by 2022 in England.

The analysis highlights that unless action is taken to address the systemic problems in the care home market, including significant local disparities, the current care home market won’t be able to meet the growing need of the country’s ageing population by the end of this parliament.

According to research from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it can take up to five to seven years to plan, build and open a new care home, meaning providers are less able to quickly respond to changes in demand.

Which? has already heard from hundreds of relatives of care home residents, who have highlighted existing problems in the current care home market. Some have had to wait years to find a suitable care home or have had to place their relative far away, as there was no suitable place available locally.

While the figures paint a mostly negative picture, there are a small number of council areas that are likely to see a surplus in the number of care home beds they provide, highlighting how mixed the regional picture is in England.

Bexley is estimated to have 26% more places than anticipated demand by 2022, while Peterborough (17%), Stoke-on-Trent (14%) Portsmouth (13%) and Trafford (10%) are also expected to exceed demand.

Which? is now launching a campaign calling for the Competition and Markets Authority’s inquiry into the care home market to go beyond immediate issues around quality, fees and complaints and to confront the creaking care sector now, recognising that the national picture masks huge differences at a local level.

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “It’s heart-breaking that families who have no choice but to move a relative into care then have the additional stress of not knowing if they can find a space in a suitable home that’s close to loved ones.

“It is vital that the Competition and Markets Authority looks at the potentially huge local disparities in provision, which could reach crisis point if nothing is done.”

Responding to the Which? Research Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “These findings reinforce our warning about the urgent need to reform adult social care and deliver a long-term sustainable solution that delivers a range of high quality care and support for the growing numbers of people who will need it.

 

“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020. But councils need to be given the freedom and flexibility to spend the additional funding for social care in the places where they feel it will be most effective.

 

“It is absolutely critical that the Government uses the Autumn Budget to bring forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care. To tackle the problems we face tomorrow, we must start planning today.

 

“This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services, that can meet the demand of an increasing number of adults with care needs.”

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