Care Home Operators Could Head South

Fears have emerged of a coming shortage of care home places in the north fuelled by providers shifting their focus to the more lucrative southern market.

Although there are no hard statistics at this time, there is anecdotal evidence of a southwards shift as the sector becomes less profitable.

Because more northerners are unable to pay for their own care costs and rely on local authority funding, companies are thought to be focusing on areas with a more affluent ageing population who pay their own fees.

As well as pressure on the level of funding local authorities are willing or able to pay care homes, factors such as the national living wage are also believed to be adding to a squeeze on revenues.

In its annual State of Care report released in October, health and social care services regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) warns that social care provision for adults throughout the UK is close to “tipping point”.

“We have seen examples of large providers starting to hand back home care contracts that they think are uneconomic and undeliverable,” the report says.

“While so far the sector has been more resilient than some anticipated, we are concerned about the fragility of adult social care and the sustainability of quality.”

As well as being concerned for those directly affected, the regulator believes the situation could also impact on the already stretched NHS in the form of increasing hospital admissions and so- called “bed blocking”, where patients can’t be discharged because of a lack of care provision.

The number of homes offering nursing care in Hartlepool has halved from six in 2010 to only three today.

Earlier this year 32 residents, including 23 requiring nursing care, were forced to leave the town’s Manor Park Care Home was labelled “Inadequate” by the CQC and operators Four Seasons Care decided to close it, citing running losses.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s chair of adult services, Councillor Stephen Thomas, told the BBC’s You and Yours consumer programme: “I would say in Hartlepool around nursing bed provision we are at crisis point. Today we have one nursing bed vacancy but there is a waiting list of 16 people for that bed.

“We’re basically waiting for people to pass away in those homes to make those beds available, which is to me a totally unacceptable situation for the people of the town.

“One of the big issues we have in the north is we have very few ‘self-funders’. The majority of people are funded through the local authority and nursing providers tell us that makes it very difficult for them.”

Although there were a third more people aged over 85 in 2014 than there were 13 years earlier, the increase in the number of beds in nursing homes has come to a halt in recent months.

Age UK believes over a million people now go without any help despite having problems with everyday needs.


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