Is care home provision reaching crisis levels?
With all eyes on the Budget this week, there was a worrying absence of mentions about social care provision.
Some new research suggests almost nine in 10 council areas in England could face a shortfall in care home places by 2022, unless urgent action is taken.
The forecast comes from consumer champion Which? who analysed care home data from across England and found 87% of local authorities responsible for providing social care may not have enough places to meet demand by 2022.
It’s likely this care home provision crisis will reach more acute levels in some local authority areas, with 14 in particular facing the toughest challenge according to Which?’s modelling. Half of these are in London boroughs.
The research compared elderly bed counts 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. This analysis shows an estimated shortfall of 42,000 elderly care home beds in England by 2022.
According to Which?, 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.
With research from the Competition and Markets Authority saying it can take five to seven years to plan, build and open a new care home, providers are unable to quickly respond to a change in demand levels.
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.
Despite a gloomy national picture, there are some local authority areas that are forecast to experience a surplus in care home beds. These include Bexley, which is estimated to have 26% more places than demand is expected to require by 2022. Peterborough (17%), Stoke-on-Trent (14%) Portsmouth (13%) and Trafford (10%) are also expected to exceed demand.
As a result of the analysis, Which? is 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.
They say the CMA’s inquiry into the care home market must make strong recommendations that the Government addresses this issue in its upcoming Green Paper.
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.
This new research from Which? confirms what we have long suspected as a care fees adviser.
Demand for later life care provision is continuing to grow, in line with an ageing population, advances in medical technology and other key trends.
With the provision of care home beds failing to keep pace with this current and expected rising demand, simple economics tells us that care home beds will become even more expensive in the future.
For individuals who need to make provision for their elderly relatives, this creates even greater financial pressures and underlines the importance of seeking professional independent financial advice.