London care home closure rate nearing 'crisis levels'

Elizabeth Bond
Image caption Elizabeth Bond has advanced Alzheimers and her family struggled to find a care home to take her in

The number of care homes closing in London is nearing "crisis level", the care watchdog has warned.

Five hundred care homes have closed in the capital in the past decade, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

Nationally the number of care home spaces has increased by 5% on average in that time, while in London it has decreased by 8%.

A government spokesman said it recognised some care home providers were struggling financially.

The BBC has found that one in four care homes is at risk of going out of business by 2020.

Find out the cost of care in your area

Councils are responsible for delivering means-tested adult social care either by funding places in private care homes or by providing council-run homes. Both are coming under budget pressure from central government.

Haringey council in north London consulted residents about the future of adult social care in 2011. It said because of "unprecedented" government cuts it had no alternative but to consider the closure of its council-run care homes because it was no longer able to fund them.

Change in London care home places from 2006-16

33% cut

in Hackney from 569 beds to 379

34% cut

in Camden borough from 710 to 466

  • 8% reduction (the average percentage change in London) in Hounslow borough from 954 to 879

  • 8% reduction in Harrow council area from 1,320 to 1,213

  • But a 48% rise in Bexley council from 995 to 1,471 bed spaces

  • and a 14% rise in Camden borough from 710 to 466 bed spaces

Image caption Segun Oladokun, from the CQC said adult social care was being squeezed by budget cuts

Cuts are also having an impact on the level of care provided by those care homes still open, Segun Oladokun, the CQC head of inspection for adult social care, said.

Sixty care homes in London have been rated as inadequate by the CQC, because residents were not receiving personal care, and staff were inadequately supervised or insufficiently trained.

Image copyright Elizbeth Bond
Image caption Elizabeth Bond waited seven months for a care home place to become available in her area, her family said

Elizabeth Bond, age 93, has advanced Alzheimers, but is otherwise healthy, her family said.

She was living with family in Dalston, in north-east London, but was starting to need more specialist care which they could not provide.

Because of the lack of NHS care homes in the area, they struggled for seven months to find a care home that would accept her, said the family.

Mrs Bond's daughter Catherine Bond said: "Her mobility is very limited, she needs help with all kinds of things... she can't walk now at all. That made it difficult for her to live with us.

"Finally [in April] she had pneumonia and the hospital worked really well with her. She recovered from the pneumonia after about a month, but then she got into a situation where she was bed blocking.

"She was in the elderly care unit and there were other women who were clearly in the same position. I used to go and visit her and she had this little group of ladies who were just stuck there. It was sad to see this."

Mrs Bond eventually found a place in a care home in Hackney in September when another resident died.

Image caption Academic and former Care Minister Paul Burstow said he was very concerned about the "attrition" in the care home sector

Mr Oladokun said: "The context is that there is less money in the system. Providers are receiving less money for the care they are providing and adult social care is being squeezed and I think it is almost reaching crisis point, in terms of the lack of funding, compared to the NHS."

Paul Burstow, professor of health and social care, and a former Liberal Democrat Care Minister, said: "I'm very concerned that we are seeing a steady attrition in both our care home sector and in our home care services and that's shunting more and more pressure back on to families who are being expected to shoulder ever greater burdens when it comes to caring for loved ones."

Care home bed spaces by council area from 2006-16

287% rise

in Darlington borough from 1,236 to 4,781 bed spaces

241% rise

in Doncaster from 2,486 to 8486

  • 5% increase in Shropshire from 3,495 to 3,686

  • 5% increase (the national average) in central Bedfordshire from 1,515 to 1,596 bed spaces

  • 57% reduction in Durham council area from 5,460 to 2,357

  • 69% reduction in Derbyshire from 7,591 to 2,321 bed spaces

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: "We recognise that some care providers are finding the current market challenging.

"We have introduced legislation to make sure that no one is left without care if their home care provider closes because of insolvency and empowered the Care Quality Commission to monitor the finances of the very largest care businesses to ensure early warning of likely insolvencies."

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