No acceleration in care home closure figures

New figures reveal that care home closures did not accelerate
during last year, contrary to many warnings.

However, there was still a net loss of 9,750 places for older
and physically disabled people during the year – 7,270 in the
private and voluntary sector and 2,480 among local authority-run

In the year to April 2000, overall capacity for care of older
and physically disabled people in residential settings dropped by
12,300 places, following a drop of 12,800 the previous year.

Leading sector analyst Laing and Buisson, which collated the
provisional figures from registration lists for all registering
authorities in the UK, said that the government would “take
comfort” from the figures at a national level.

But the company warned that the figures also hid wide local
variances. “The number of hotspots with acute shortages of supply
continue to grow, primarily in the more prosperous areas of the
country south and east of the line from the Severn to the Wash,”
the company acknowledged.

In a statement, it went on to warn that although the closure
rate was slower last year than predicted, “it remains possible that
such an acceleration will take place this year or next year as, and
if, regulatory and financial pressures continue to mount”.

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Home
Association, saw little in the figures to offer any comfort and
said the government had been lucky last year because there had been
no flu epidemic as there had been the year before to highlight the
shortage of places.

“A flu epidemic has a dramatic impact on bed-blocking etc. If
beds are not there in the independent sector for people to be
discharged to, then that could be very serious,” she said.

* Meanwhile, in Sheffield further bed losses were anticipated
following the council’s decision to reduce the amount it
contributes to the care of nursing and residential care home
patients by around £11 per week, backdated to April 1.

Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Residential Nursing Home
Association, described Sheffield council’s actions as “totally
unacceptable”, and warned it would lead to more bankruptcy and
closures. The independent care home sector has long complained that
inadequate fees for local authority-funded placements are a major
financial pressure.

“They have in one foul swoop wiped out the increase in income
support which nursing and residential care home patients received
in April by simply reducing the council’s contribution by the same
amount,” Ursell said.

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