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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 12:56 GMT
Care home crisis deepens
The care home sector is said to be in crisis
The number of private nursing homes, hospitals and clinics fell sharply last year, official figures show.

It is the third year in succession that the numbers have fallen, adding weight to fears that the care home sector is facing a crisis.

Many owners have quit, claiming that the fees they receive from the government do not adequately cover their overheads.

At 31 March 2001, there were around 5,700 private nursing homes, hospitals and clinics - a fall of 3% on 2000.


The loss of care homes has been unforeseen, unstructured, and unplanned in Whitehall

Paul Burstow
Compared with 2000, the number of general nursing has fallen by 4% and the number of mental nursing homes has fallen by 3%.

The number of registered beds has also decreased. At 31 March 2001, there were 186,800 beds, a fall of 3% from 2000, and around 5% lower than in 1996 to 1997.

Between 2000 and 2001, the number of beds in general nursing homes fell by 4%.

The number of households receiving home care fell by 4%.

Worrying figures

A spokesman for the charity Help the Aged said the statistics were worrying and called for new funds.


It is only the Government that refuses to accept that there has been a massive loss in the number of care home beds

Dr Liam Fox
The data follows the publication of a dossier compiled by 21 organisations which warned of elderly people struggling to find care, both in their own homes and in residential homes.

It blamed "chronic" underfunding by government.

The Social Policy Ageing and Information Network report found the amount of older people receiving home care was in decline, despite the number of people over 85 at its highest ever.

It estimated that 35,000 beds have been lost due to care home closures in the last three years.

This had forced many older people are forced to make traumatic moves to alternative care homes, which are often inappropriate for their care needs.

It has also led to hospital beds being blocked by people who are well enough to be discharged, but have nowhere suitable to go.

Dire warning

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat spokesman on older people said that if current trends continue, the number of people needing long term care will for the first time ever exceed the number of care home places available by April 2006.

He said: "Ministers have had their heads in the sand for far too long.

"The loss of care homes has been unforeseen, unstructured, and unplanned in Whitehall.

"The victims are vulnerable elderly people forced to pack up and leave what has become their home.

"For some the trauma is too much and costs them their lives."

"Fees must rise. Not to line the pockets of care home owners, but to pay a decent wage to care workers to recruit and retain the right staff."

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said there was mounting chaos in the care home sector which was "wreaking in the fragile health service".

He said: "It is only the government that refuses to accept that there has been a massive loss in the number of care home beds.

"Until they accept the seriousness of the situation which their mismanagement of the care homes sector has caused, thousands more elderly people will face the prospect of eviction from their own homes through no fault of their own."

Rate slowing

A Department of Health spokesperson said the statistics showed that the rate of nursing home closure had declined.

"However, we have taken action to maintain capacity in long term care.

"These statistics refer to the period between 2000 and 2001, before the announcement of 300m to tackle delayed discharges and the publication of the Building Capacity and Partnership in Care Agreement.

"Both these measures are designed to stabilise the care home sector."

See also:

01 Sep 01 | Health
The elderly care crisis
10 May 00 | Health
Home care charges 'unfair'
29 Nov 01 | Health
Care home beds lost
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