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The rising cost of a care home

Anyone who has looked for a care home knows how expensive they can be. Last year fees rose by almost 5%, the biggest hike in 10 years.

The rising cost of a care home

The average cost of a residential care home for an older person in the UK increased to £651 a week in 2018-19. Or, put another way, the average cost hit £33,852 a year.

According to research by LaingBuisson*, average fees in 2018-19 were almost 5% higher than the previous year, when the average was £622 a week.

And for those who need a nursing home – a care home with round-the-clock nursing care – the costs are even greater. The average cost of a nursing home in 2018-19 was £893 a week, or £46,436 a year: a 4.3% rise on the previous year.

Inflation-busting increases

Care home fees have been rising at above-inflationary rates for most of the past decade. The UK inflation rate hovered around 2% at the end of 2018-19, but care home fees increased at more than double that rate (4.7%). This was the largest annual hike in care home fees in 10 years.

Average UK weekly care home & nursing home fees

Year ending 31 March Care homes Annual increase Nursing homes Annual increase
2010 £481 5.9% £678 3.0%
2011 £502 4.4% £691 1.9%
2012 £521 3.8% £705 2.0%
2013 £539 3.5% £722 2.4%
2014 £556 3.2% £737 2.1%
2015 £562 1.1% £762 3.4%
2016 £580 3.2% £787 3.3%
2017 £608 3.8% £829 5.3%
2018 £622 2.3% £856 3.3%
2019 £651 4.7% £893 4.3%

Source: Care Homes for Older People, UK Market Report, LaingBuisson

The fees quoted here are averages for the whole market. That means they combine the fees that local authorities pay to care homes and the fees paid by self-funders. But because self-funders typically pay more for a care home than a local authority will – more than 30% more on average – self-funders usually face even higher costs than the averages quoted here.

Postcode lottery

The average UK rates tell only part of the story. There are major regional differences across the UK, which means that where you live has a big impact on the cost of your care.

The average cost of a residential care home in 2018-19 ranged from £539 a week in Northern Ireland to £769 in Scotland. That’s a difference of £230 a week, or almost £12,000 a year.

For nursing homes, average fees ranged from £706 a week in Northern Ireland to £937 in England.

But it’s not just a question of which country you live in. Fees can vary from one county to another, and even from one local authority area to another.

Within England, average fees in London, the south and the East of England are considerably higher than costs in the north. For example, a care home in the South East averaged £783 a week (without nursing care), while the equivalent charge in the North West was £547 – striking difference of £12,272 a year.

Find out the cost of care where you live 

If you live in England, our cost of care and eligibility calculator can tell you how much care costs where you live, and whether you would be eligible for local authority support. You’ll also find practical advice on your next steps.

How later-life care is paid for

While healthcare is provided free by the NHS, most of us will have to pay some or all of the costs of our own social care in later life.

Local authorities will provide financial support for people whose assets and income are below a set amount, but the rules can be complicated, and different thresholds apply in different parts of the UK. And even if you do qualify for council support, you may still have to contribute some of your income towards the costs.

In certain circumstances, the NHS will cover the cost of care for people with complex health needs. Read more about NHS funding for care.

What is the government’s position?

The rising cost of care in later life is one of the biggest financial challenges facing many people in the UK.

The current government says that reforming the way social care is paid for is one of its major priorities. The government has pledged to introduce legislation to ‘fix the system’, although no concrete proposals or timeframe have yet been released.

In March 2017 the previous government promised to publish a green paper to explore the issue of how social care is funded, but this was repeatedly postponed and still has not been published.


*All data from Care Homes for Older People, UK Market Report – LaingBuisson, December 2019.

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