800 nursing home beds in Wales disappear in four years, figures show

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Media captionKerry Hagland is looking for a nursing home for her father, Patrick Lynch

Almost 800 nursing home beds have been closed in Wales over the past four years, according to figures obtained by BBC Wales.

It is claimed this has left families of sick, older residents struggling to find a new home for loved ones.

There are warnings that more homes in Wales could close, as they struggle with recruitment and rising costs.

The Welsh government said it had plans for a £50m care fund to support people to remain in their own homes.

According to a Care Forum Wales survey, due to be released on Monday, a third of Welsh nursing home owners do not think they will be in business in five years' time.

And three-quarters of their members are struggling with recruitment difficulties and rising costs.

Sarah Rochira, the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, told BBC Radio Wales current affairs programme Eye on Wales that she had heard from families across Wales struggling to find nursing home places for their relatives.

She has written to all Welsh health boards and local authorities to ask them what they are doing to ensure they have sufficient provision for the future.

"The reality is we are an ageing population and that does mean that we are going to see an increased need for specialist services and support," she said.

"I'm not convinced yet that we are in a position where we can assure older people that in years to come they will get the support they need.

"And certainly the evidence that people are raising with me seems to show that too many older people at the moment are beginning to struggle to get the support they need."

Mario Kreft, director of Care Forum Wales, said the fees paid by health boards and local authorities for publicly-funded residents did not cover the costs.

"Nobody in our view is really understanding the value of all the small and medium enterprises which, taken together, provide over 11,000 beds registered for nursing care - and that's nearly as many beds as we have in the NHS," he said.

'Staffing issues'

The figures on nursing home beds were released following a freedom of information request from Eye on Wales to Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

It showed that 254 adult care nursing home beds had been lost in the last year alone.

Kerry Hagland is desperately looking for a nursing home for her 82-year-old father Patrick Lynch, who suffers from dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and kidney failure.

He needs nursing care and lives at St Dunstan's Nursing Home in Griffithstown, near Pontypool, Torfaen.

But now its owners, HC-One, are closing it down leaving Ms Hagland and her 82-year-old mother Sylvia devastated.

"It's a lovely place. We knew that the home had a few problems with staffing issues, but it was a shock when they said they were closing it," Ms Hagland said.

"Dad needs nursing for his health and the understanding that he has dementia.

Image caption In a statement, the Welsh government said it "recognises the pressures of caring for an increasing number of older people with complex needs"

"There are no places in Torfaen for him whatsoever. He's got to wait for someone to pass away so he can have their place.

"Six that have actually been moved have already passed away - that's a concern for me because if I move my father, what state is he going to be in?"

A spokesperson for the home said: "As part of our jointly agreed closure plan with Torfaen, a policy was put in place for any resident admitted to hospital to move directly from there to a new home to avoid multiple moves.

"HC-One's managing director met with Torfaen on Friday to ensure suitable new homes for Mr Lynch and the few remaining residents at St Dunstan's are found quickly to minimise stress."

Both Torfaen council and Aneurin Bevan Health Board said they were working together to find appropriate alternative placements for all residents at St Dunstan's.

They said all local nursing homes had been contacted to secure any vacancies that become available for residents needing to transfer.

In a statement, the Welsh government said it "recognises the pressures of caring for an increasing number of older people with complex needs".

Its draft budget for 2014-15 includes plans for a £50m intermediate care fund to support people to remain in their own home, as well as ensuring beds are available for those people who really need them.

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday, 10 November at 13:30 GMT.

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