El­derly suf­fer cruel post­code lot­tery as Tory cuts hit half of lo­cal coun­cils

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - EX­CLU­SIVE BY SARAH ROBIN­SON [email protected]­daymir­

OLDER peo­ple face a care home post­code lot­tery af­ter 10,000 beds were lost in the past five years.

Half of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – those hit hard­est by fund­ing cuts – have fewer beds now than in 2014.

The 9,772 fall comes even though na­tion­ally the fig­ure rose from 401,322 to 407,058 in the same pe­riod.

The find­ings are said to show older peo­ple are at the mercy of a “post­code lot­tery” in the worst hit ar­eas.

Adult care ex­pert Steve Wilkie said: “If this trend isn’t re­versed it’s go­ing to get even tougher to ac­cess care in cer­tain ar­eas in the com­ing years.

“For some it will mean lack of avail­abil­ity and sub­se­quently higher costs force them to de­lay ac­cess­ing the right care at the right time.

“Oth­ers may feel they are bet­ter off fi­nan­cially pay­ing for assistance at home. In fact, what we are see­ing is a post­code lot­tery un­fold.”

Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion data showed 75 lo­cal author­ity ar­eas have strug­gled to keep up with pro­vi­sion since 2014. Sun­der­land has seen the great­est de­cline in bed num­bers out­side of Lon­don, los­ing 15.3 per cent of them in the past five years. Brack­nell For­est in Berk­shire and Hartle­pool, County Durham have seen sim­i­lar falls, at 15.1 per cent and 14.3 per cent re­spec­tively.

Of 150 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Eng­land, only 74 have more care home beds than they did in 2014.

Two — Ham­mer­smith and Ful­ham and Ne­wham — have stayed the same.

The UK pop­u­la­tion is age­ing with 18.2 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion aged 65 or over in 2017, com­pared with 15.9 per cent per cent in 2007. Ex­perts pre­dict 20.7 per cent in 2027 and 25 per cent in 2069. The num­ber of care homes in Eng­land fell from 11,113 in 2014 to 10,878 in 2019.

The de­cline af­fected 86 of the 150 author­ity ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures.

Mr Wilkie, MD of Re­spon­si­ble Life, added: “The dan­ger is some re­tirees will in­evitably choose to re­main in homes that do not meet their re­quire­ments.

“It is im­per­a­tive that peo­ple con­sider all their op­tions and make in­formed choices well in ad­vance. The num­ber of beds coun­try-wide has ac­tu­ally gone up.

“So we know a drop in the num­ber of beds in half of au­thor­i­ties is not part of a wider change in how peo­ple want to ac­cess care in later life.”

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