William Eichler 15 May 2019

Cuts creating ‘care deserts’ across England, charity says

Years of underfunding has undermined the care market and created ‘care deserts’ in England, an elderly persons charity has warned.

Research commissioned by Age UK has discovered that just under a third of areas have no care beds available.

Carried out by the independent health consultancy Incisive Health, the study also found that around two-thirds of nursing homes have no beds.

The vacancy rate for registered nurses working in social care has tripled between 2012/13 and 2017/18 to 12.3% with numbers falling by 9,500. The turnover rate now stands at nearly a third (32.4%) of roles.

Age UK warns that the lack of staff is ‘severely limiting’ the care that providers are able to offer.

‘This new report shows how chaotic and broken the market for care has become after years of underfunding and the absence of determined Government action to ensure the right workforce is in place,’ said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK.

‘The end result is laid bare by the authors – the emergence of care deserts and a deeply worrying lack of nursing home places, in particular, leaving some of our most vulnerable older people high and dry.’

Kieran Lucia, account director at Incisive Health, commented that ‘urgent action’ was required to make the care sector sustainable.

‘The social care system is broken,’ he said.

‘Despite the best efforts of the dedicated social care workforce, years of political inaction and budget cuts to local authorities have resulted in a system that is no longer capable of delivering care to everyone who needs it.’

Responding to the report, Julie Ogley, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: ‘We need a vibrant care market which gives people choice and control over their lives.

‘As this report demonstrates, the market is becoming increasingly fragile and failing in some parts of the country.’

In ADASS’ budget survey last year nearly a third of adult social care directors said they have seen care home providers closing or ceasing to trade over a six-month period, affecting 3,290 people.

A similar number said they had seen contracts handed back, impacting on 2,679 people.

Ms Ogley said that nearly 80% of ADASS members reported that they are ‘concerned about their ability to meet their statutory duty to ensure market sustainability within their existing budgets.’

‘What is desperately needed from Government is a long-term, sustainable funding solution for adult social care, which would also help to recruit and retain our valued and skilled 1.5 million strong workforce,’ she concluded.

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