The care home sector is facing an “uncertain future” with almost double the number of beds standing empty than at the same point last year, a survey has found.
The Channel 5 News/National Care Association survey of 256 care home providers found they had 2,404 empty beds in June compared with 1,281 in the previous year. Overall occupancy levels stood at 81% compared with 92% in June last year.
NCA Chairman, Nadra Ahmed, (pictured) said: “We know that the impact of COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the financial viability of care services.
“Without recognising and addressing this we will be facing the prospect of failing the most vulnerable citizens in our communities as providers feel that they can no longer sustain their businesses.
“Providers have been delivering care services despite the funding challenges for over a decade at least, any resilience they had in their businesses has been eroded by this virus and many now face an uncertain future.
“The government response to calls for support was late and inadequate, they must now redeem themselves by responding to the call for urgent support to halt provider failure across the country as the sector faces rising debt and low occupancy.”
Director of Care, James Creegan, said Croft Care Group would need to consider the closure of one care home where with 50% occupancy if things did not improve.
“Currently we have 34 people living here, it is their home and if we had to make a decision to close I know I would be pretty devastated,” James said.
Manager Karen Healey said Tregwilym Lodge Nursing and Residential Home in Newport was losing £24,000 a week after a third of its residents died with COVID-19. Karen said changing guidance and a lack of community testing made her worried about the future.
The home manager said she was unaware of government plans for what would happen in the event of a second wave.
“There’s been no engagement in respect of whether we’re going to have extra staff, whether we’ve got enough PPE in the system, the flu jabs in respect of our staff and everyone making sure we’re covered,” Karen added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic we have been working closely with the sector and public health experts to put in place guidance and support for adult social care, including testing all residents and staff, funding a care home support package worth £600m and making a further £3.7bn available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic.
“We are doing everything we can to support the social care sector and will bring forward a plan that puts social care on a sustainable footing to ensure the reforms will last long into the future.”
Covid Care Home Crisis – What Now? airs tonight at 6.30pm on Channel 5.