The crisis in care funding has dominated the news pages this month with the regulator, Care Quality Commission (CQC) warning of the danger of decline in the standards of quality and safety as more providers pull out of the market due to rising costs.
The CQC report highlighted the alarming fact that more than 10% of residential homes have closed in the last five years. The number of UK care homes has dropped from more than 18,068 to 16,614 between September 2010 and July 2016.
This shortage of supply is both prompted by and exacerbated by the shortfall in local government funding which means that council contributions range from £421- £624 a week versus the cost of privately funded beds which range from £603- £867 a week. This shortfall means that care providers either operate at a loss or self-funding clients end up subsidising those residents who are unable to meet the costs themselves.
Care home companies have called on the Chancellor to address this urgently in the Autumn Statement because as many as one in four care home beds – 100,000 – are at risk of closure without additional funding. They claim that 9 out of 10 councils fail to contribute the minimum needed to sustain their services. Almost half of care homes in the UK are currently losing money because of this shortfall in investment. Although some councils such as Plymouth have announced additional funding, there is a general consensus that council financing is falling overall.
Without much needed investment in good quality long term care the problem cascades into issues such as NHS “bed-blocking” where, with no alternative options, elderly and vulnerable patients remain in hospital rather than being discharged into more suitable care.
This inevitably puts further strain on public services and pushes the financial burden to other areas – including those who fund their care privately. These “self-funders” could face both increasing costs and a scarcity of quality care provision if the situation doesn’t improve. In their recent report, “Behind the Headlines: “Stuck in the middle – self-funders in care homes”, Age UK identified risks to some residents such as arbitrary fee increases, unexpected charges for “extras” or relatives being asked to act as guarantors for payment. It also claimed that self-funders are also unknowingly subsidising other residents because of council funding shortfalls.
As public spending cuts continue to bite hard, and the numbers of people who will require some form of long term care increases, we are facing a crisis in the care sector. Self funders, who currently represent around 41% of all care home residents, will become the majority and even those who receive support from the local council will have to contribute more.
The quality and consistency of long term care is a critical issue both for clients and their families and selecting the right type of care is complex. Despite the horror stories from some care homes there is high-quality care available in the UK, but this comes at a cost. My Care Consultant works with clients and their families to identify the right care solution and the best options for funding. Only a well funded care sector with both appropriate government investment and sustainable private occupancy rates will help provide the long term care provision that we deserve.