More than half of care home beds in parts of England 'not up to scratch'

By Agencies
November 30, 2017

A lack of good quality care means some parts of England have more than half their care home beds in homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, according to a new investigation by consumer champion Which?.

Which? analysis of Care Quality Commission (CQC) data shows that in six local authority areas, good quality care home places are so limited that 50 per cent or more of local beds are in homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, making it less likely that people looking to move into a care home will be able to find a good place near where they live.

Which? is urging the Government to ensure it looks at quality, provision and choice in its Green paper, as it prepares to respond to the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) final report into the care home market, expected later this week.

The existing lack of good quality care is particularly acute in the London borough of Westminster, where seven in 10 (69 per cent) beds were found in care homes rated as requiring improvement or inadequate. In Manchester and Wakefield, three in five beds (58 per cent) are in care homes that are rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, closely followed by Kirklees (57 per cent), Portsmouth (56 per cent) and Tameside (55 per cent).

In total, nearly a third (45 councils) of local authority areas have one in three beds or more in poor-quality care homes. Nine of these are in the capital and include Tower Hamlets (48 per cent), Islington (47 per cent), Kensington and Chelsea (46 per cent), Newham (41 per cent), Haringey (41 per cent), Barnet (40 per cent), Ealing (35 per cent) and Harrow (33 per cent).

While the research, which compared the quality of local provision in 151 council areas that provide adult social care provides some worrying figures, there are a small number of areas where at least nine in 10 care home beds are in homes rated as good or outstanding. These include the Isles of Scilly (100 per cent) Richmond upon Thames (94 per cent), Rutland (91 per cent) and Blackburn with Darwen (90 per cent).

Overall, the analysis highlights the huge regional variation in the provision of quality local care across the country in the current care market. Which? has already heard from hundreds of relatives of care home residents, who have highlighted existing problems in the care system. Some have had to wait years to find a suitable care home or have had to place their relative far away, as there was no suitable place available locally.

Which? is warning that this picture could rapidly worsen, as demand starts to outstrip supply in an increasing number of local areas, putting increasing pressure on care home places. Previous Which? research shows that almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places by 2022.

While the CQC regulates quality and the CMA’s study will focus on market-wide issues including provision, Which? is calling on the Government to look at the care system as a whole when it responds in its forthcoming Green Paper, so that these problems can be tackled once and for all.

Alex Hayman, Which? Managing director of Public Markets, said, “Having to choose a poor care home isn’t really making a choice at all, and it’s disturbing to know that so many people across the country are already in care homes that are clearly not good enough.

“The Government must use its Green Paper to tackle the very real issues in care, including quality, provision and choice, before the situation gets much worse.”

Commenting on the findings, Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's Charity Director said, "It is completely unacceptable that many older people with significant health and care needs have no real choice but to live in 'poor' or 'inadequate' care homes because that's all that's available in their area. Older people and their families who find themselves in this position are entitled to feel outraged and very badly let down.

"What's worse, we fear this situation is more likely to get worse than better because the funding gap facing social care is already big and projected to keep on growing.

"These figures make the Government's failure to increase social care funding in the Budget last week all the more inexplicable."

* Which? https://www.which.co.uk/

* Age UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk/

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