The care home market has remained resilient despite the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, a major new report has found.
In the 31st edition of its Care Homes for Older People UK Market Report, LaingBuisson said COVID-19 had not triggered a surge in care home closures despite an 8 percentage point fall in occupancy rates between March and September 2020.
The business intelligence provider cautioned that closures may only have been postponed by loans and tax holidays, however, adding there could yet be a sharp increase in small, family run services going to the wall. LaingBuisson predicted occupancy levels may not return to normal levels until 2023.
The report also looks at the potential benefits of digitalisation that have been highlighted by the COVID crisis with NHSX understood to be making provision for NHS funding to make substantial investment in digital technologies for social care in the near future.
Report author, William Laing, (pictured) said: “No-one can deny that the care home market has been disrupted by COVID-19. Television and newspaper reports have told the very human story of what has happened. The figures show that the value of the market has shrunk from £17.3 billion in March 2020 to £16.6 billion in September 2020. The underlying drivers of demand remain, though how and when self-payers in particular choose to access care may change in the wake of the pandemic.
“Digitisation in social care, or rather the lack of it, has been one of the big stories in care homes through the pandemic. The lack of joined up health and social care records was held responsible for some of the breakdowns in communication at the start of COVID-19 and public expectation regarding what can be achieved through technology is growing. Digital technologies offer the potential for operational and back office efficiencies and to free staff up to focus on activities which add value and improve the customer experience. It would, nevertheless, be fanciful to say that we are anywhere close to artificial intelligence taking over tasks currently undertaken by human beings.
“Aside from what happened at the start of the pandemic, there have been many pilot projects which have shown the efficiencies to be gained for the NHS from connectivity, remote monitoring and diagnosis, the avoidance of unnecessary hospital admissions and the delivery of primary care in care homes if connectivity between the mainly independent social care sector and public sector healthcare provision is improved. The promise of NHS funding from NHSX to support this will be vital to achieving this much needed upgrade in technology for many care homes.”