Care home places drop by 13,400 in a year

UK care capacity in residential settings for elderly and physically disabled client groups shrank by some 13,400 places last year.

According to figures published in Laing & Buisson’s annual market update, 'Care of Elderly People Market Survey 2003', there were 501,900 places across private, voluntary and public sectors in the 15 months to April 1 2003.

Capacity across all sectors is now some 74,000 places lower than the peak in 1996 – up to 11,800 places were lost in independent sector (private and voluntary) care homes compared to the annual rate of 9,600 last year.

A further 900 places were lost in local authority run residential homes plus an estimated 700 continuing care places in NHS hospitals, according to the report.

The net change in independent sector capacity is made up from home closures, new registrations and other changes such as repositioning to other client groups, extensions and shutting of sub-standard rooms.

Report author William Laing said that the continuing decline in care home capacity was "particularly worrying" as there is the prospect of increased demand from 2005, when a resurgence in population ageing is expected to commence.

He added: "Without new investment in care home capacity, consumer choice is threatened.

"The key to new investment remains offering private sector operators reasonable fee rates to support the 70% of care home residents who are funded by the state – predominantly by local authority social services departments."

According to updated research initially conducted by Laing & Buisson for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the 2002/03 national average ‘fair’ price for care in a newly built care home was £471 per week for nursing care and £362 per week for residential care of older people.


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