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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 22:20 GMT
Elderly care homes 'shortage'
Carer with elderly person
Many homes are closing due to rising costs
An elderly care home "crisis" has produced a shortage of spaces nationwide, says a new report.

An investigation by Which? consumer magazine suggests many private care homes across the UK are full to capacity.

And there are fears the problem could worsen as more homes close or increase fees.

Researchers from the magazine called 70 homes at random - 10 each in seven parts of Britain.

The pressure on places could worsen in future, as residents of closing homes have to seek new accommodation,

Which? report
And in two of the seven areas - Brighton and Bristol - just one home had a vacancy.

Two homes in Glasgow and the Peak District had spaces and only three out of 10 homes in Coventry, Liverpool and Newcastle were not full.

At one home that was full, staff said the waiting list for a room could be up to three years.

Of the 55 homes that were full, staff at two homes said they could offer a space if the resident was prepared to share a room.

Cash shortfall

The study said several homes were not taking new residents because they were either closing down or changing ownership.

"This suggests the pressure on places could worsen in future, as residents of closing homes have to seek new accommodation," it added.

I do miss it because I had lots of friends there

Florence Bramble

New minimum standards for care homes have placed a greater pressure on owners by compelling them to equip homes with lifts or increase door widths, the report said.

The investigation also highlighted a gap between prices charged by homes and funding available from local councils.

Which? said more than half of the homes quoted prices higher than the maximum level published by the local authority.

Helen Parker, editor of Which?, said: "Care homes closing down, rising fees and a shortage of places mean it can be impossible for many older people to find a suitable or affordable room in a residential care home."

A spokesman for Age Concern said: "We are in the grip of a crisis in social care provision for older people.

"This report is yet another example of the devastating impact local authority under-funding of care home places has on older people and their families.

"Chronic rationing of care home places by local authorities is starving older people's services throughout the country."

Liam Fox
This report is just the latest evidence that there is a growing crisis within provision of community care for the elderly

Liam Fox
Shadow health secretary
Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Homes Association, blamed the shortage on the low fees paid by local authorities.

"We believe local authority funding hasn't been enough to allow homes to keep running profitably," she said.

The National Care Standards Commission (NCSC), which is still in its first year, has so far registered 10,000 care homes.

A spokeswoman said a survey of 70 homes was not representative and denied homes were shut simply because they could not carry out alterations.

She said: "We must make the distinction between the suitability of a building and the providing of care.

"If homes are unable to achieve a basic minimum standard of care, this means that residents are being put at risk."

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said the government had only itself to blame for shortage.

"This report is just the latest evidence that there is a growing crisis within provision of community care for the elderly.

"There are now 60,000 fewer long term beds than when Labour came to power", he said.

A Department of Health Spokesperson, said an extra 300m had been made available to local authorities to increase the number of care home places and the fees paid to owners.

Proposed changes to standards governing physical environment were also in the pipeline.

In addition, there had been an increase in the number of households receiving intensive home care to help people live at home.

Other intermediate care services had also been boosted.

See also:

06 Feb 03 | UK
21 Dec 02 | Health
04 Oct 02 | Health
04 Oct 02 | Health
19 Jul 02 | Health
03 Feb 03 | England
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