The crisis over nursing home fees is forcing a council in south
east England to consider sending older people to homes in France,
Belgium and Spain, writes Sally
Peter Gilroy, who is Kent council’s director of social
services, is currently seeking places in France because its cheaper
than the UK. ‘I’m doing it simply because I cannot overspend
budgets. Gone are the days when you can look for places in, say,
Devon. It’s just not affordable anymore.’
In the last nine months the council has lost over 600 nursing
home beds because home owners have switched to residential care or
sold off the property.
Gilroy said: “There are many homes that will not take council
referrals at all. Staff are having to make about 50 calls just to
find one place. On a daily basis we are being told by homes to
remove our patients.”
He added that his staff were looking to resolve issues over
language and accessibility for relatives. “France and Belguim are
nearer to Kent than Devon so we view them rather like adjoining
“But nobody will be forced to go abroad and initial feedback
from carers has been very positive,” she said.
Gilroy criticised one-off winter payments to authorities saying
that a strategic approach was needed. He said an extra £7
million was needed to meet the cost of private nursing homes in
Kent in addition to £26 million already allocated.
The council has written to health secretary Alan Milburn urging
the government to inject more money into the nursing home
Nadra Ahmed, chairperson of the National Care Coaltion,
commented: “Staff retention is the main reason for so many home
closures. We just cannot draw enough people into the industry
because they can get paid more working at Asda.
“We as home owners can no longer subsidise the care sector.
Local authorities have been creative about how they use their funds
and have wilfully neglected the independent sector,” she said.
In one day of this week alone she had received four
notifications of home closures, she said.
Other councils are experiencing similar problems. Two months ago
nursing home owners in Devon threatened to terminate their contract
with Devon council over fees. Last week they withdrew the threat,
after agreeing a new funding package. But David Johnstone, social
services director, said: “We still have the threat hanging over us.
It has only been withdrawn temporarily on the understanding that we
work together to raise public awareness of the issue.”