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Concerns raised over quality of life in increasingly large care homes

Campaigners and charities have raised concerns over the findings of a study which says increasing placement of pensioners in larger care homes forms a “care warehouse” culture.

Care home closures causing crisis

As we have recently reported, ongoing cuts in care funding have raised fears of an unsustainable future for care homes. Many are forced to close: there are 400 fewer care homes now than in 2011. But the need for care will continue to increase: the report by Healthcare Property Consultants said that our current population of 1.63 million people over 85 will grow to 2.84 million by 2030.

This has resulted in creating larger care homes – despite closures, the total number of beds has remained steady at around 425,000. In the last three years, new care homes are housing 58 residents on average, while those that closed averaged 27.

Neil Duncan-Jordan, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “It is a really worrying picture. The social care market is failing. The only way operators feel they can make it viable is to go towards larger homes.”

Fears for quality standards

Whilst larger care homes can have good staffing levels and facilities, some charities and campaigners fear the potential is all too clear for cutting costs in order to maintain greater profits.

Ros Altmann, an independent campaigner for elderly people, commented: “A lot of companies in charge of some care homes have huge debts and councils have not been funding care sufficiently to pay for the cost of upkeep. If you have not got enough budget or if you have big debts you will be continually looking to cut costs.”

Duncan-Jordan agrees with this concern, explaining: “There are no rules regarding the number of staff per resident, so if you have a big home you can cut corners by having minimal numbers of staff – which must have an impact on care. Big homes do not necessarily mean worse care but the potential is there because corners can be cut.”

This can mean a loss of personal attention and staff specialisation in training, as well. George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It is deeply concerning at a time of increasing demand that many smaller, specialist providers often embedded in the community are being forced to close.” Duncan-Jordan agrees that in addition to the distressing loss of their previous care homes, “a lot of elderly people can feel ‘lost in the crowd’ at these large homes.”

Fiona Lowry, CEO of the Good Care Group, commented: “It is vitally important that elderly people receive the individual attention and specialist-trained carers that they need, to maintain their quality of life. Our service enables your loved one to remain in their own home for as long as possible, with carers who form real relationships with them and understand their personal needs.”