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Social care: Shortfalls creating ‘care deserts’

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The elderly are at risk due to the shortfalls The elderly are at risk due to the shortfalls

About 30% of postcode areas now have no residential care beds for elderly people, creating ‘care deserts’, an analysis carried out for Age UK indicates.

Furthermore, over 60% of nursing homes have no places. Additionally, the vacancy rate for registered nurses working in social care has tripled between 2012/13 and 2017/18 to 12.3% with numbers falling by 9500. The turnover rate now stands at nearly a third (32.4%) of roles.

‘There is no doubt from reading this report that the experience of the frail older person who is dependent on personal services and seeking long term residential care is poor in some localities,’ said Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI).

‘In a recent visit as part of a Churchill Fellowship to New Zealand, I witnessed nursing and personal care being delivered in peoples’ homes, with both services being free at the point of access. People can remain in their own homes for much longer with such services and the entire philosophy of the service in New Zealand is ‘home first’ – ensuring people enjoy living in their homes for as long as possible before residential care is (if ever) required.

‘There has been a clear strategic investment in these services delivered in peoples’ homes and this is paying dividends in reducing the number of people attending A&E and unplanned admissions. The data is testament to the success of the strategy. It is a false economy in our NHS to not invest in the community service – both district nursing and personal care services.’

In some areas of the country a lack of staff, especially nurses, is severely limiting the care that providers are able to offer. The analysis found that despite a slight rise in the total number of beds nationally over the last five years, some local areas, such as Hull, have lost more than a third of their nursing home beds in the last three years.‘This new report shows how chaotic and broken the market for care has become after years of underfunding and the absence of determined Government action to ensure the right workforce is in place,’ said Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK.

‘The end result is laid bare by the authors – the emergence of care deserts and a deeply worrying lack of nursing home places, in particular, leaving some of our most vulnerable older people high and dry. It would be hard to exaggerate how serious the implications of this report are for older people, or indeed for the NHS, which is the place of last resort if no nursing home places are to be had.’

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