Care Homes In Suffolk – The Future

Recent reports seem to indicate that there could well be a rise in the number of beds needed in Suffolk care facilities. A general report by Knight Frank recently published suggests that there was a net loss of 2,612 care home beds in the UK, with bed losses most severe in Greater London area. The report suggests that overall on a per capita basis, pipeline development activity for new facilities continues to be most prevalent in the southern regions.

Knight Frank’s Care Home Development Index, identifies those locations that are considered to present the best future prospects for care home investment and development. Using a county-level model, eight equally weighted variables are observed, covering economic and demographic projections as well as other care home trading performance measures.

Suffolk in particular has come into sharp focus within the report. The review conducted by Knight Frank attributes the county’s high ranking for investment to the relatively low bed pipeline coming through to market as well as the long term forecasted growth in both GDP and the over 65 population, which is creating favourable conditions for market entrants.

Going back to 2012, an overhaul of those Care Homes owned by Suffolk County Council was given the green light, as it was agreed that homes were to be transferred to a private operator, Care UK. The council’s cabinet voted in favour of 16 residential homes and eight community wellbeing centres being transferred to Care UK, and over the next four years they were to be either redeveloped or closed. By the end of 2016, it was thought that Care UK would run 10 larger homes across the county after a £60 million investment. Although the number of homes would have fallen, the number of beds in the county would have increased from 526 to 680.

In another report commissioned by Suffolk County Council (SCC), Great Yarmouth & Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (GYWCCG), Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (IESCCG) and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (WSCCG), a review of the care available at the end of 2016 came at a time when social care was experiencing significant challenges.

The Care Quality Commission’s annual “state of care” report, published in September 2016 provided a stark summary: “there are indications that the sustainability of adult social care is reaching a tipping point”

The Department of Health’s POPPI2 data was researched and suggested that Suffolk and Great Yarmouth could experience a 60% increase in the population aged 75+ between now and 2025. It was considered that it was not unrealistic to respond with a 60% increase in the number of care home beds. CQC data suggested there were 8,240 beds in Suffolk and Great Yarmouth (and there was evidence to suggest that this was insufficient to meet demand at the time). A 60% increase would represent a further 4,944 beds being added to the market by 2025. The Suffolk Commissioners, along with their counterparts across the country, therefore were advised to take urgent and effective action to ensure that adult social care provision was fit for purpose and ready to support the projected increase in numbers of people likely to require support. Clearly this is especially challenging in a context where new or additional funds are unlikely to be forthcoming.

Suffolk, like many areas of the country have continual challenges, but one of the biggest is the gap between “demand for” and “supply of” care home beds.

The Office of National Statistics estimate that currently 23% (192,600 people) of the Suffolk and Great Yarmouth population are aged 65 and over, compared to 18% of the England wide population.

Suffolk County Council’s Dementia Needs Assessment 2016 estimates that there are currently around 12,800 people living in Suffolk with dementia. This data projects that by 2035 incidence of dementia will have increased by 90%, with nearly 25,000 people living in Suffolk with dementia.

CQC data tells us that there are 249 care homes, providing 8,240 beds across Suffolk and Great Yarmouth. These are operated by 151 providers and that the 10 largest providers operate 43% of the available beds. 78% of providers operate just one home in the area, while 54% of beds are registered to provide care only, 46% provide care with nursing, (although nursing beds can be occupied by people who only need care-only so the proportion of beds occupied as care may be higher). There is a variation between districts.

It is quite clear that the number of beds within Care Homes for Suffolk will need to increase dramatically in line with demand.

The various district organisations could work together as the long-term demand for care homes is very unlikely to reduce significantly. New providers should be encouraged and feel confident about making investments in Suffolk for the future care of those needing such services.

There is a general under-supply of care homes across Suffolk and new care homes which can offer a focus on dementia care and nursing should be especially welcomed.

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