Care watchdog warns over financial pressures on adult services
The quality and safety of care services for elderly and disabled people in England risks being undermined by financial pressures, a watchdog has warned.
Data gathered by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) showed the number of care homes has fallen dramatically as providers struggle with rising costs, including the introduction of the living wage, and the tightening of local council budgets.
The regulator is said to be set to raise its concerns with the Government that needy, vulnerable older and disabled people could be left with nowhere to go if the problem goes unchecked as the population ages.
In its annual assessment of care in England, the CQC will also warn ministers of the impact that deteriorating social care would also have on the wider NHS.
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care at the watchdog, said: "We know that the adult social care sector faces many financial pressures which, worryingly, could undermine the quality and safety of care that people receive and rely upon every day."
The chief inspector was commenting on an internal report based on data received from 39 large providers which revealed how capacity in the social care sector was shrinking.
The memo showed an 8% fall in the number of care homes in the last six years, from 18,068 in September 2010 to 16,614 in July 2016.
The number of nursing homes increased marginally, from 4,387 to 4,623, but the number of residential homes fell from 13,681 to 11,991, equal to more than one in 10.
The report said the analysis showed "a local authority funded service user problem. Notwithstanding recent fee increases, the historic level of underfunding remains and in some cases has probably increased as a result of (the) national living wage."
Ms Sutcliffe said the figures "h ighlight a concern that the long-term sustainability of high-quality care within this sector could be at risk. Given the impact this would have on people's lives, it is important that we continue to monitor these trends closely."
The CQC is due to present its annual State Of Care report to Parliament on Thursday, weeks after one of the country's biggest not-for-profit providers of care in the community said it was pulling out of the market.
Housing And Care 21 was working with 150 local authorities to provide care for elderly and disabled people, amounting to 35,000 hours of home care a week.
Its chief executive, Bruce Moore, said it could no longer provide high-quality care on the funding it was given by local councils.