Care Home Management Magazine

Lack of care home choice leaves families ‘settling’ for inadequate places

Systemic failure in the care home sector is leaving the majority of people with limited choice and half of people needing care having to wait for a bed, according to new research by Which?

The consumer champion found that almost half of people (48%) who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one said there weren’t any places in at least one of the local care homes they considered. 

The survey asked people who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one in the past 12 months to share their experiences of the care sector and highlights a worrying trend of people not being able to find suitable local care provision.

The research found that a lack of good local places means many people are staying in, or moving loved ones into, care homes they aren’t satisfied with, with almost one in five people (17%) saying they settled for a care home they had reservations about. A similar number (16%) ended up opting for a home away from friends and family.

When they did find a bed, as many as a quarter (25%) of care arrangers said they were left feeling guilty or annoyed that they couldn’t find a more suitable care home.

Which? has launched a campaign calling for the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) inquiry into the care home market to go beyond the immediate issues around quality, fees and complaints and to confront the creaking care sector now, recognising that the national picture masks huge differences in the number of care home places available at a local level.

Which? says the CMA’s inquiry into the care home market must make strong recommendations that the Government addresses this systemic issue of inadequate provision in its upcoming Green Paper.

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “Making the decision to move a loved one into a care home is difficult enough, so it is unacceptable that so many families are left feeling guilty or concerned about the choices they have made, simply because there is no choice.

“The Competition and Markets Authority must look at the huge local disparities in care home provision, which are fast reaching crisis point.”

Responding to the Which? Research, Councillor Linda Thomas, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils are committed to ensuring that people have access to good quality care. But this is being put at risk by the severe funding pressures faced by social care services.

“An increasing number of care homes are closing and care providers are handing back their council contracts because of cost pressures. We have warned that £1.3 billion is needed right now just to stabilise the perilously fragile care provider market.

“Overall social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020. Unless social care is properly funded, the standard of care for elderly and vulnerable people is at risk.

Janet Morrison

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “Choosing a care home can be a complex decision for older people and their families, and is often done under time and emotional pressure. It is simply not acceptable that nearly one in five people surveyed have reservations about their care home.

“This could be the tip of the iceberg, as this research looks at people who arrange care themselves or for a loved one. It poses questions about the quality of choice on offer for people making do with a care home the local authority have arranged for them. The Government must urgently publish their long-promised Green Paper on social care, and get on with delivering a social care system that meets the needs of older people now and in the future.”

Alzheimer’s Society senior policy officer Dominic Carter said: “These findings echo what we hear every day through our helpline – time and again we are called by families of people with dementia who’ve been refused places at care homes because their needs are ‘too complex’.

“Even worse, we hear of people with dementia in care homes handed four-week eviction notices – one woman told us her husband was shown the door after seven weeks at a care home because he was viewed as ‘challenging and the manager did not have enough staff available to provide the one-to-one support he needed’.

“While it could be easy to scapegoat care homes, we know they are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. They can’t sustain their businesses if local authorities don’t have big enough budgets to cover the care home’s costs. The only way to give people with dementia the care, security and reassurance they deserve is for the Government to inject more money into social care.”

Which? recently published research showing that almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places emerging by 2022 unless urgent action is taken.

Analysis of care home data in 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.

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