Nearly 10,000 beds lost from half of England’s local authorities
Author: Ingrid Torjesen
Nearly 10,000 care home beds for the elderly have been lost in five years across half of England’s local authorities, figures show.
In total, 9,772 care home beds have been lost in England in the 75 local authority areas that have struggled to keep up with provision since 2014, the analysis of Care Quality Commission (CQC) data shows.
The findings suggest older people are being left at the mercy of a postcode lottery in many areas, because the overall number of beds has actually risen over the same period from 401,322 to 407,058.
The UK population is ageing with around 18.2% of people aged 65 or over in mid-2017, compared with 15.9% in 2007. This is projected to grow to 20.7% aged 65 and over by 2027. It is also projected that more than a quarter of people in the UK will be aged 65 or over in the next 50 years.
The five local authorities that have seen the biggest falls in bed numbers are located in London. Waltham Forest lost 32.58% of its beds, Hounslow 22.73%, Redbridge 10.24%, Southwark 17.67% and Greenwich 15.36%.
Sunderland saw the greatest decline in care home bed numbers outside of London, losing 15.3% of them in the past five years. Bracknell Forest and Hartlepool have seen similar falls, at 15.1% and 14.3% respectively.
Of the 150 local authorities in England, only 74 have more care home beds than they did in 2014, while two — Hammersmith and Fulham and Newham — have stayed the same.
Overall, the number of care homes in England has fallen from 11,113 in 2014 to 10,878 in 2019, declining in 86 of the 150 authority areas.
Steve Wilkie, managing director of retirement mortgage specialists Responsible Life, which produced the figures, said: “The number of beds country-wide has actually gone up, so we know a drop in the number of beds in half of authorities is not part of a wider change in how people want to access care in later life.
“In fact, what we are seeing is a postcode lottery unfold. If this trend isn’t reversed, it is going to get even tougher to access care in certain areas in the coming years.
“For some it will mean lack of availability and subsequently higher costs force them to delay accessing the right care at the right time, while others may feel they are better off financially paying for assistance at home.
“The danger is that some retirees will inevitably choose to remain in homes that do not meet their requirements.”