The UK’s care homes are in urgent need of reform, according to the findings of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
This is to ensure that both the provision of residential care for the elderly remains sustainable and that vulnerable residents are protected.
The CMA – which has been investigating the sector over the past year.
– has identified a number of problems in care homes across the UK. Concerns relate to charges, provision of information to families at what can be a highly traumatic time, and protection for residents. The CMA also found that families often found it difficult to provide feedback or make complaints about care homes.
Funding is another major issue. According the CMA, homes are facing a funding shortfall of £1 billion a year because the fees they are able to charge councils do not reflect the actual charges they incur. As a result, care homes are being forced to increase fees for those that pay for their own care (self-funders), with average costs (£44,000 a year) 40% more than fees levied to councils.
The report also claims that in some cases care homes are in breach of consumer law, in terms of being upfront about costs and terms and conditions.
As a result, the CMA is now raising its concerns and taking direct action against care homes that have not been complying with consumer law. Specific issues include the charging of large upfront fees that are either unfair or not transparent as well as fees being levied for more than four weeks after a resident has died.
It will also consult on new guidance for care homes to ensure they comply with consumer law.
Families and prospective residents should get more help and information about their options too, with better complaints processes for those who are not happy with the service they receive.
In addition to tackling the problems that care homes are currently facing, the CMA wants to make improvements to long term planning to ensure that there are enough new care homes being built to meet growing demand.
At the moment, it says uncertainty around funding and whether or not councils will cover the full cost of care, is putting off potential investors. To this end the CMA would like to see the launch of a new independent body to work with local councils and support and oversee the planning of new homes.
‘Without substantial reform the UK won’t meet the needs of its ageing population’
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA says: “Care homes provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. However, the simple truth is that the system cannot continue to provide the essential care people need with the current levels of funding.
“Without substantial reform to the way that councils plan and commission care, and greater confidence that the costs of providing care will be covered, the UK also won’t be able to meet the growing needs of its ageing population.”
The CMA report comes hot on the heels of a report from Which? earlier this week, which found that more than half of beds in UK care homes are inadequate or in need of improvement. It also said that mounting pressures on care homes mean that by 2022 nine out of 10 councils will not have enough beds for the people that need them.