Across the UK there are more than 11,000 registered care homes run by private businesses, non-profit organisations (such as charities and housing associations) and local authorities.

On this page we give you information about:

1. Care home providers
2. Registered care homes
3. Specialist support in care homes
4. Care home fees

Care home providers

Care homes provide accommodation and meals for older people who are no longer able to live independently, even with the help of carers, family or friends.

There are two types of care home: residential care homes (homes that provide living accommodation, meals and help with personal care) and nursing homes (also provide nursing care), and most homes are run with these specific needs at their core.

To make life complicated, the general term for care homes is also often referred to as residential care.

Care homes can be owned and run by:

  • Private (commercial) businesses, who may own one, a few or a larger group of care homes. In this sector, the ten largest companies run 20% of the care homes in the UK, with Four Seasons Health Care, Bupa Care Homes, HC-One and Barchester Healthcare running nearly 1,200 care homes between them.
  • Non-profit organisations, such as charities and housing associations.
  • Local authorities, who mostly run residential homes rather than nursing homes. There used to be many more local authority run care homes than there are today as social care provision is usually bought by local authorities from homes run by the non-profit organisations and private businesses.

Registered care homes

Like all care providers in the UK, care homes have to be registered with the appropriate regulator; for example the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland.

As a part of their registration, each care home has to say what care they specialise in, whether this is residential care, nursing care or other more specialist areas.

Specialist support in care homes

Some care homes offer specialist support for those people with specific health problems, such as dementia, mental health conditions or physical disabilities.

It is also possible to go to some care homes for respite care or day care.

Other care homes might provide a mix of different care types; for example, there might be a certain number of places for residents requiring personal care, a certain number for those people requiring nursing care, and others for those with dementia.

There are also an increasing number of settings where older people can buy or lease a house or flat in the grounds of a care home (and these are sometimes organised as sheltered housing or provide assisted living). Later in life - and should the need arise - it will then be possible to move into the main care home, either in a residential capacity or as a resident with nursing needs.

Care home fees

Of course, with different levels of need comes different levels of the cost of the care. There is also a big difference in care home fees depending on where the care home of your relative’s choice is in the UK and if she or he is being funded by the local authority, is self-funding or being supported for third-party top-ups.

This is a complex area, so we cover it in depth in Financing a care home.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 March 2015
Next review due: 30 September 2016