Viability of care homes for elderly in doubt

Care homes across England will struggle to meet rises in the costs of care for older people, putting the number of care home beds at risk, figures published today reveal.

Care homes across England will struggle to meet increases in the costs of care for older people, putting the number of beds at risk, figures published today reveal.

Market experts Laing and Buisson said fee rates had risen by 0.5% in England, compared with a rise in costs of 2.1% for homes, as local authorities pass budget squeezes onto providers. Councils fund about 170,000 care places in the independent sector across England.

Des Kelly, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: “There’s a danger of closing homes and putting residents at risk.”
Both Kelly and Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Association, agreed the low fee rises could cause capacity issues and leave people struggling to find residential placements. Scott said: “I think that this could cause capacity issues in some parts of the country, especially where people may not have much personal money.”

East Anglia and the northern Home Counties, such as Oxfordshire, are being hit worst with average increases of 0% in fees, the survey of 186 of the 208 UK councils with social services responsibilities showed. Scotland and Northern Ireland fared better, however, with average increases of 2.1% and 2%, while rates rose by 1.5% for Welsh providers.

Scott said providers would increasingly look to fill beds with fee paying individuals to make up the gap in local government rates.

William Laing, chief executive of Laing and Buisson, warned the rises could prove problematic for even the most prudent companies if they were continued for the next three years. He added: “Very tough times are ahead for highly indebted companies, especially those exposed to public funding in areas of overcapacity.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said the figures raised concerns about the quality of care.

Acting chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: ‘We understand cuts are inevitable, but funding squeezes should not mean cutting corners. There are alternatives to slashing costs on care – it is possible to ensure high quality of life for residents, providing value for money and without incurring extra cost.”

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