Councils must pay higher care home fees to meet rising demand

9 Sep 04
Local authorities must pay higher fees to care homes if they want to staunch the loss of beds, researchers have warned, after almost 10,000 disappeared in 2003/04.

10 September 2004

Local authorities must pay higher fees to care homes if they want to staunch the loss of beds, researchers have warned, after almost 10,000 disappeared in 2003/04.

A study by analysts Laing & Buisson has revealed that the net fall in the number of care home places was 9,600 between April 2003 and April 2004, to 486,000.

The majority of the lost beds, 6,600, were from the independent sector, while 2,200 beds were from local authority homes and the remaining 800 from continuing care provision in the NHS.

The number of new care homes opening has also fallen, from 96 in 2002/03, to 76 homes, providing 3,171 places in 2003/04.

But the study, which was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, uses official population projections to predict that demand for care home places, predominantly filled by the elderly, will rise by 14,000 by mid-2005.

William Laing, author of Care of elderly people market survey 2004, said the increasing use of cheaper alternatives, such as caring for people at home, meant that the decline in residential provision was not being addressed.

However, he warned it was 'imperative' that capacity among traditional care homes was rebuilt. He called on councils to fund the necessary investment by paying providers better rates.

'The key to stimulating new investment for state-funded clients remains local authorities offering reasonable fees to support the 61% of UK care home residents whom they pay for,' Laing said.

A separate study on the long-term costs of care, also commissioned by the JRF, predicts that spending will have to rise from £12.9bn in 2001 to £53.9bn by 2051 to meet rising demand as people live longer.

Care home places will need to rise to 1,130,000 over the same period.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: 'Clearly there is a case for more government resources to ensure that clients who rely on the public sector aren't forced into a second-class service.'

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