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Digest: Warning over 'care deserts in broken market'

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More than 1.3 million people over 65 live in a postcode area where there are no care home beds available, a study has found.

Research published today by Age UK identified that 1,800 of the 7,500 primary postcodes [the first three figures] in England (24%) did not have space available in residential care or nursing homes.

This means 1.3 million people live in “care deserts”, based on the 2011 census. With the growing population, the number is likely to be much higher, the report by consultancy Incisive Health said.

When nursing homes are taken in isolation, only a third of postcodes have beds available.

The report concludes that the current care market model has broken down in some areas and is no longer capable of delivering care to people in need, with ”immediate action needed to stabilise the system.”

The South West is identified as having limited care home capacity outside of urban areas, while in the South East there are high levels high levels of workforce vacancies.

Councils have a responsibility under the Care Act 2014 to manage the care market in their areas.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said the market is now “chaotic and broken” after years of underfunding.

She added: “The report shows what an impossible position local authorities are in; they are supposed to ‘manage’ their local care market, but they lack the levers to do so and the big drivers of the problems in the care industry are way beyond their control.

“Meanwhile, they are desperately short of money to purchase care home places for older people in need, so more and more of the financial burden is being shifted onto those older people who fund their own care, who are paying through the nose to keep the system afloat. This is deeply unfair.”

The social care green paper, which the government said would include proposals for long-term sustainability, has been repeatedly delayed after being announced two years ago. 

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