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Lack of choice leaves families settling for unsatisfactory care homes

Half of people are left waiting for a care home bed

Families face a critical lack of choice in arranging care, new Which? research shows. Our survey found that nearly half (48%) of people who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one in a care home said there weren’t any places in at least one of the local places they considered.

Half of those who need a care place are also having to wait for a bed.

This highlights a worrying trend of people not being able to find suitable local care provision. We also recently revealed that almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places by 2022 unless urgent action is taken.

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Local care home provision is lacking

A lack of good local care places means that many people are staying in, or moving loved ones into, care homes they aren’t satisfied with, our research found. Almost one in five people (17%) told us they had settled for a care home that they had reservations about. A similar number (16%) opted for a home away from friends and family.

When they did find a bed, 25% of care arrangers said they were left feeling guilty or annoyed that they couldn’t find a more suitable care home.

Fred Horley, 86, from Devon, struggled to find good care for his wife Joan, 83, who has since passed away. He says her poor experience of care has left him worried about his future. ‘Joan’s experience was far from satisfactory. At times, my wife was left for up to an hour after activating an emergency alarm before any help came. One time, she laid on the floor in the dark shouting for help.

‘My wife’s experience has opened my eyes to what could happen to me when I’m in care. But good-quality care homes where I live are difficult to come by, expensive and have few vacancies.’

You can use our care services directory to search for care homes and other care services in the UK.

The UK’s looming care crisis

Our campaign calls for the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) inquiry into the care home market to go beyond the immediate issues of quality, fees and complaints. It should confront the creaking care sector now and recognise that the national picture hides huge differences in the number of care home places available locally.

The squeeze on care places is predicted to be particularly acute in 14 local authority areas, according to our modelling. These could face a shortfall of 25% or more in the number of care home places needed. Half of these are London boroughs.

According to the recent care regulator’s report, the care system is ‘straining at the seams’ as the number of beds in nursing homes across England is decreasing.

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: ‘Making the decision to move a loved one into a care home is difficult enough, so it is unacceptable that so many families are left feeling guilty or concerned about the choices they have made, simply because there is no choice. The Competition and Markets Authority must look at the huge local disparities in care home provision, which are fast reaching crisis point.’

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