Care homes bed availability

On 2 August, Radio 4’s You and Yours discussed the lack of care home beds in parts of England. This discussion centred mainly on the north of England where social care providers are more dependent on public funding to run their provision. In short, the argument centred on the lack of funding meaning providers were unable to find a business model to run services successfully due to the low price paid by councils.

It takes 5-10 years for a new care home to come on-stream. This includes initial conception of the idea, identifying funding, whether capital funded by the provider, or jointly funded with a local authority.  Then there is the site search, planning permission, not to mention building, fitting and not least, staffing. Care homes are a significant investment and they do not happen overnight. Recently, Oxfordshire has welcomed two new care homes:

  • Penhurst Gardens, a Porthaven home in Chipping Norton opened in October 2016 with a specialist dementia unit, and,
  • Wytham House near Oaken Holt, Farmoor, a specialist dementia home from Caring Homes, opened last winter.

Lincroft Meadows, also from Porthaven, in Kidlington, opens this autumn.

At the moment we have adequate capacity for care beds in Oxfordshire. And with the number of people aged 65+ predicted to rise by 23.3% between the last census in 2011 and 2021 (with a smaller increase in the city), and the number of people over 85 rising by nearly 40% over the same period, this capacity is sorely needed.

The prevalence of dementia increases significantly with age. About 5% of people aged 71 to 79 and 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. A futher 37% of those 90 years or older are estimated to have some type of dementia. In Oxfordshire, the number of people with dementia is forecast to increase by 28% from 2012 to 2020, from 7,800 to 10,000. Results included in Oxfordshire County Council’s most recent Care Homes Market Position Statement suggest that 46.3% of older people in Oxfordshire were affected to some level and 21.6% were affected a lot by physical incapacity. These figures indicate that the need for care beyond your own home will increase in future years, and that the care needed will be required for people with more complex conditions.

Care home capacity in Oxfordshire is generally about 90-95% though actual number of beds available is also dependent on staffing. Oxfordshire County Council’s strategy is for people to live at home as long as possible as demonstrated by their Help to Live at Home framework, which allocates increasing demand on home care to a fewer providers. However, the real issue remains funding and staffing. Care homes beds will not be filled unless there is adequate funding to match the cost of care and enough staff to fill the posts needed.

The Department of Health has said local authorities in England had been given an extra £2bn to help fund social care, but this is a stock reply to all social care concerns and doesn’t go far enough meet all social care pressures and enable all providers to compete in a very competitive employment market and rise to meet the challenge of Brexit.

The autumn green paper is awaited in anticipation, but there is a growing list of challenges for it to address.