A systematic failure in the care home sector is leaving the majority of people with limited choice and half of people in need of care having to wait for a bed, according to Which?
Almost half of people (48%) who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one said there were no places in at least one of the local care homes they considered.
The research found that people were staying in or moving their loved ones into homes they were not satisfied with.
Almost one in five people (17%) said they had settled for a care home they had reservations about, with 16% opting for a home away from friends and family.
A quarter (25%) of people arranging care felt guilty or annoyed that they could not find a more suitable care home.
Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said: “Making the decision to move a loved one into a care home is difficult enough, so it is unacceptable that so many families are left feeling guilty or concerned about the choices they have made, simply because there is no choice.
“The Competition and Markets Authority must look at the huge local disparities in care home provision, which are fast reaching crisis point.”
Which? has launched a campaign for the current Competition and Markets Authority probe into unfair practices in the sector to be expanded into a much wider review of the sector.
Linda Thomas, Vice Chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils are committed to ensuring that people have access to good quality care. But this is being put at risk by the severe funding pressures faced by social care services.
“An increasing number of care homes are closing and care providers are handing back their council contracts because of cost pressures. We have warned that £1.3bn is needed right now just to stabilise the perilously fragile care provider market.
“It is vital that the Government sets out in the Autumn Budget how it will address the immediate social care crisis and deliver long-lasting reform that meets the needs of adults of all ages needing social care.”
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of the charity Independent Age, added: “It is simply not acceptable that nearly one in five people surveyed have reservations about their care home. This could be the tip of the iceberg, as this research looks at people who arrange care themselves or for a loved one.
“It poses questions about the quality of choice on offer for people making do with a care home the local authority have arranged for them.
“The Government must urgently publish their long-promised Green Paper on social care, and get on with delivering a social care system that meets the needs of older people now and in the future.”
Martin Green, CEO of Care England, commented: “Which? highlights a big problem with the social care system.
“Providers aim to be as innovative and flexible as possible, but without adequate funding from local authorities it is nigh impossible to deliver choice on a scale that we as consumers aspire to.
“The Government has indicated that the long awaited Green Paper on social care has been watered down to a consultation document.
“It is disappointing that there is a vacuum in political understanding about the gravity of the situation facing each and every constituency across the country. The size, scale and economic contribution of the social care sector to the economy is underestimated at the Government’s peril.”