Care home residents are at risk of becoming ‘homeless’ if the Government doesn’t prevent the collapse of struggling chains which have lost income during the Covid-19 pandemic, an expert has warned.
Adam Gordon, a professor of the care of older people at Nottingham University, said many frail, vulnerable people are at risk because care homes have been pushed to ‘breaking point’ and may go bust.
Data suggests 30,000 of Britain’s 400,000 care home population have died during the pandemic.
The bed vacancies in care homes as a result would have slashed income for care homes, predominantly run by private companies in the UK.
Coupled with the huge costs of PPE that has been marked up massively and other disease control measures, it has left a burning hole in the care sectors’ pocket.
Adam Gordon, a professor of the care of older people at Nottingham University, said many frail, vulnerable people are at risk because care homes may go bust. (stock)
Speaking during a webinar put on by the Royal Society of Medicine, Professor Gordon said: ‘I’ve seen figures that have suggested most care homes start to run into trouble with financial stability when their occupancy rate drops below 70 per cent.
‘There are a significant percentage of care homes around the country with a bed occupancy between 40 to 50 per cent at the moment.
‘Unless there are consistent and systematic efforts undertaken by governments to fish those organisations out, we will see care homes organisations go bust before pandemic is over.
‘When that happens, the frail, vulnerable residents that live there will be homeless.’
According to the Office for National Statistics, at least 14,404 people had died with Covid-19 in care homes in England and Wales by June 12.
Britain has Europe’s worst Covid-19 care home death toll
Coronavirus has killed more care home residents in Britain than any other European country and the death rate is 13 times higher than Germany’s, a study has found.
The paper, by the London School of Economics, compared the effects on care homes across European nations and the US and New Zealand, taking data from mid-June.
Up to 5.3 per cent of Britons living in care homes have died since February, when the coronavirus outbreak began to spiral out of control.
It found Spain suffered the most, with 6.1 per cent of its care home population wiped out by the disease — a total of at least 19,533 people.
But the researchers said it was difficult to compare Spain because of the way officials count cases. They wrote: ‘There is no way of knowing whether a region’s data refers only to confirmed cases or if non-confirmed cases are also included.’
Data in the paper showed, however, that care home residents in Britain had died at a rate 13 times higher than those in Germany, where 0.4 per cent of its some 800,000 residents had passed away.
France saw half the rate of care home deaths as Britain, at 2.4 per cent of its 600,000 residents.
Shadow care minister for Labour, Liz Kendall MP, called the statistics ‘appalling’ and said the Government had been too slow to act on protecting care homes.
The study estimated more than 32,000 excess deaths in care home residents (of which there are around 400,000).
Excess deaths include other fatalities likely to be linked with the pandemic but not always Covid-19 directly. People may not receive normal levels of treatment for other illnesses.
Bosses in the care sector were left dismayed during the peak of the crisis as they struggled to get protective equipment supplies and tests from the Government.
Experts say care homes were left behind as ministers focused their efforts on preparing hospitals for the pandemic, and it has now been homes bearing the huge burden of coronavirus outbreaks, which continue to rumble on months later.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) says 340 Covid-19 deaths had been in care home residents (41 per cent of its total) until June 19.
And 47 per cent of Scotland’s 4,155 Covid-19 deaths registered to date related to deaths in care homes, taking the UK’s Covid-19 death toll in care homes to at least 16,700.
But a study last week suggested the pandemic had caused a far higher number of deaths in care home residents.
The London School of Economics said up to 5.3 per cent of the 400,000 Britons living in care homes have died of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 since February, when the coronavirus outbreak began to spiral out of control.
That would mean 21,000 had died. But a further 11,000 excess deaths – those that would not have happened in an average year – have been recorded, suggesting a sheer number of care home residents have died from causes indirectly caused by the pandemic.
The figures mean the coronavirus has killed more care home residents in Britain than any other European country and the death rate is 13 times higher than Germany’s.
Professor Gordon said: ‘Those care homes that have been infected by Covid, often very excellent care homes through no fault of their own, have lost up to a third of their paying clients.
‘Care homes are predominantly private organisations in the UK, and to have a massive increase in expenditure at the same time losing a significant chunk of your income, pushes your business model to the breaking point.’
Care homes have spent more money than usual on PPE, which Professor Gordon said soared in price.
‘A significant financial impact was sustained by care homes early in the pandemic when the NHS as a monopoly provider bought up pretty much all the PPE in the country,’ he said.
‘Care homes found that the cost of PPE might be inflated by up to a factor of 100. Items that would usually cost one pound were now costing £100. That was the level of increase in increase in price.
‘A lot of care homes did what they could and put their money out for those things.’
It follows a National Audit Office (NAO) report this month found that care homes were overlooked in order to protect the NHS.
It said plans to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) were hampered because officials ignored warnings in 2019 to stockpile gowns and visors – and didn’t have enough of them when the need arose.
This resulted in less than half of the necessary equipment being available to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the crisis.
The report also revealed that NHS hospitals discharged 25,000 people into care homes during the peak of Britain’s Covid-19 crisis, between March 17 and April 15, without testing them for the coronavirus.
Coronavirus has ravaged care homes, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock come under fire for saying in May that the Government threw ‘a protective ring’ around care homes right from the start of the pandemic.
Two-thirds of care homes in Scotland have reported a case of Covid-19, official data shows. A huge 536 of those 689 have reported more than one suspected case.
Some 42 per cent of care homes in England and Wales have reported suspected or confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks, according to the most recent data from Public Health England.