Number of homes falls by 900

There were 700 fewer residential care homes and 200 less nursing
homes in March this year than in March 2000, new government figures
reveal, writes Lauren Revans.

A total number of 4,700 residential home places – or 1 per
cent – were lost over the 12 month period. More than a fifth
of these were in the south east. Registered nursing home beds fell
by 6,600 – or 4 per cent.

The number of local authority-supported residents fell for the
first time since 1994 by 3,400 down to 261,800. However, only 16
per cent of these residents were actually in local authority-run

Health minister Jacqui Smith said the change reflected the
government’s commitment to helping people with care needs who
wanted to remain living independently at home to do so for as long
as possible.

“This inevitably means there will be a shift in the services
older people need,” Smith said. “We need to strike the right
balance between supporting more people to live independently at
home – which we are doing – and ensuring a sufficient
supply of residential care and nursing home places for people who
need them.”

Smith admitted that there were particular “capacity problems” in
the care home sector in some parts of the country, but said the
government’s investment programme – an extra £900
million annually by 2004 on intermediate care – would help
stabilise problems.

However, Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for older
people, said the falling care home figures were further proof that
the government had failed to understand the sector, and was
continuing to drive good homes out of business.

“Even with more and better home care, a growing elderly
population will need care homes,” Burstow said. “By ignoring the
evidence and denying there is a problem, ministers now have a major
job to rebuild confidence.”

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