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Care home provision to hit crisis levels in most council areas within this Parliament

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 consumer champion 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.

When Peter’s (not his real name) mother-in-law had a stroke and could no longer look after herself, Peter and his wife had to find a care home for her. Initially there was no permanent room for Rose (not her real name) and she was moved from home to home every week or two until a place became available. Peter says they had a miserable Christmas that year and his wife was very worried. They eventually got a permanent place, but the home soon became financially insecure and Peter and his wife took the decision to find another home just before it eventually closed down.

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.

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.”

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