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According to Which? Within this Parliament, care home numbers will hit crisis levels in most council

According to new research by the consumer organisation Which? Unless urgent action is taken, we could see shortfall in care home places in nine in ten council areas across England by 2022.

Care home data from across England suggests that 87% of councils responsible for providing social care may not have enough places to meet the potential demand by 2022, highlighting an impending crisis in local care home provision.

According to Which?’s modelling, 14 local authority areas could face a shortfall of 25% or more in the number of care home places needed. Half of these are London boroughs.

The data analysis suggests that Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, is set to see the largest shortfall with 53% more care places needed by 2022 than are currently available. Lewisham (48%), Harringey (38%), Hartlepool (35%) and Milton Keynes (33%) are also predicted to fall significantly short in providing enough places in five years’ time if the rate of extra provision isn’t increased.

In summary, the research which compared elderly care bed counts (in each upper tier local authority area based on Care Quality Commission data) that would be provided if the current trend continues with the beds required in each upper tier local authority area to keep the existing provision per 80+ population (based on ONS population projections) – shows there will be an estimated shortfall of 42,000 elderly care home beds by 2022 in England.

Unless action is taken to manage the problems in the care home market, it will be unable to meet the growing need of the country’s ageing population by the end of this parliament.

Research from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) suggests it can take up to five to seven years to plan, build and open a new care home, meaning providers are less able to quickly respond to changes in demand.

Which? has stated they have already heard from hundreds of care home residents relatives, who have highlighted existing problems in the current care home market. Some relatives have had to wait years to find a suitable care home or have had to place their loved one far away, due to lack of suitable local places.

There are a small number of council areas that are likely to see a surplus in the number of care home beds they provide, highlighting how mixed the regional picture is in England.

Bexley is estimated to have 26% more places than anticipated demand by 2022, while Peterborough (17%), Stoke-on-Trent (14%) Portsmouth (13%) and Trafford (10%) are also expected to exceed demand.

Which? is now launching a campaign urging the Competition and Markets Authority’s inquiry into the care home market to go beyond immediate issues around quality, fees and complaints and to confront the creaking care sector now, recognising that the national picture masks huge differences at a local level.

Managing director of public markets at Which? Alex Hayman, said: “It’s heart-breaking that families who have no choice but to move a relative into care then have the additional stress of not knowing if they can find a space in a suitable home that’s close to loved ones.

“It is vital that the Competition and Markets Authority looks at the potentially huge local disparities in provision, which could reach crisis point if nothing is done.”

In response to the Which? Research, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Izzi Seccombe, said “These findings reinforce our warning about the urgent need to reform adult social care and deliver a long-term sustainable solution that delivers a range of high quality care and support for the growing numbers of people who will need it.

“While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020. But councils need to be given the freedom and flexibility to spend the additional funding for social care in the places where they feel it will be most effective.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government uses the Autumn Budget to bring forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable solution for social care. To tackle the problems we face tomorrow, we must start planning today.

“This must address the issue of long-term funding, but it must also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services, that can meet the demand of an increasing number of adults with care needs.”

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