A lack of good quality care means some parts of the country have more than half of their care home beds in homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, according to a new investigation by consumer champion Which?.
Which? analysis of Care Quality Commission data shows that in six local authority areas, good quality care home places are so limited that 50 per cent or more of local beds are in homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, making it less likely that people looking to move into a care home will be able to find a good place near where they live.
Which? is urging the Government to ensure it looks at quality, provision and choice in its Green paper, as it prepares to respond to the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) final report into the care home market, expected later this week.
The existing lack of good quality care is particularly acute in the London borough of Westminster, where seven in 10 (69%) beds were found in care homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate. In Manchester and Wakefield, three in five beds (58%) are in care homes that are rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, closely followed by Kirklees (57%), Portsmouth (56%) and Tameside (55%).
In total, nearly a third (45 councils) of local authority areas have one in three beds or more in poor-quality care homes. Nine of these are in the capital and include Tower Hamlets (48%), Islington (47%), Kensington and Chelsea (46%), Newham (41%), Haringey (41%), Barnet (40%), Ealing (35%) and Harrow (33%).
While the research, which compared the quality of local provision in 151 council areas that provide adult social care, provides some worrying figures, there are a small number of areas where at least nine in 10 care home beds are in homes rated as good or outstanding. These include the Isles of Scilly (100%) Richmond upon Thames (94%), Rutland (91%) and Blackburn with Darwen (90%).
Overall, the analysis highlights the huge regional variation in the provision of quality local care across the country in the current care market. Which? has already heard from hundreds of relatives of care home residents, who have highlighted existing problems in the care system. 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.
Which? is warning that this picture could rapidly worsen, as demand starts to outstrip supply in an increasing number of local areas, putting increasing pressure on care home places. Previous Which? research shows that almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places by 2022.
The research also raises questions around whether some councils will be able to continue to meet their statutory duty to offer local authority-funded individuals at least one suitable care home place that will meet the prospective resident’s needs.
While the CQC regulates quality and the CMA’s study will focus on market-wide issues including provision, Which? is calling on the Government to look at the care system as a whole when it responds in its forthcoming Green Paper, so that these problems can be tackled once and for all.
Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: “Having to choose a poor care home isn’t really making a choice at all, and it’s disturbing to know that so many people across the country are already in care homes that are clearly not good enough.
“The Government must use its Green Paper to tackle the very real issues in care, including quality, provision and choice, before the situation gets much worse.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “The lack of quality care available in some parts of the country is nothing short of scandalous. It is simply unacceptable that, in some areas, more than half the beds available are in care homes rated poor or inadequate. This means a shocking lack of choice for some older people and their families.
“None of us want to live somewhere that is below par, and that doesn’t change if we have to live in a care home. The Government has promised a Green Paper on social care next year, but we need to ensure that there are solutions in the short-term too. The forthcoming CMA review on social care must contain strong recommendations that will be quickly taken up by the Government to help older people and their families making choice about care today.”
Dominic Carter, senior policy officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This research by Which? reiterates that people with dementia, a third of whom live in a care home, are at the mercy of a care system increasingly at risk of collapse.
“The unacceptable postcode lottery of care in this country has been exacerbated by a continued lack of funding, leaving local authorities with very little resource to provide the care people with dementia need.
“Many homes have already been forced to shut their doors, while those still in operation are under increasing strain. The Government must stop shifting responsibility onto people with dementia and their families and inject the funding that is needed to provide good quality, affordable and widely-available care.”