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Regional variation in care home quality highlighted

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Many council areas have seen an increase in the proportion care homes which are failing to meet basic standards, with significant regional differences in quality, research by a charity has found.

A report published today by Independent Age reveals the percentage of care homes rated either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ decreased in every region in the past year.

But the proportion of care homes are failing to meet basic standards has increased in one in five council areas.

The report also highlighted wide variations in the quality of care homes across the country. 

The North West has the lowest proportion of care homes considered satisfactory, with 28% poorly performing, followed by Yorkshire and Humber (26%) and West Midlands (21%). London and the East of England, the best performing regions, have 17% of care homes failing to meet basic standards.

There are seven council areas where more than two in five homes are under-performing. These are Tameside MBC (57%), Portsmouth City Council (46.5%), Kensington & Chelsea RBC (45.5%), Manchester City Council (44%), Bradford City MBC (44%), Stockport MBC (43%) and Trafford MBC (43%).

A total of eight council areas have one in 20 care homes or less rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. Of these, four (Bracknell Forest BC, Reading BC, Rutland Council and Southwark LBC) have no care homes judged to be underperforming.

Independent Age chief executive Janet Morrison said the overall improvement in the quality of care homes masks regional variation which is giving some families “an unenviable choice”.

She said: “The market simply does not seem to be able to drive the rapid improvement needed in many areas.

“While the government seems happy to deflect all decisions about social care into the vague promise of a green paper, local authorities are having to make difficult decisions now about care in their area.”

Responding to the research, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Izzi Seccombe (Con) said it provides further evidence of the pressing need to fund social care in the short and long term.

She added: “This is symptomatic of an increasingly fragile provider market, in which providers are either pulling out of contracts or going out of business. It is also leading to growing unmet need, further strain on informal carers, continued pressure on an already overstretched care workforce, and a decrease in social care’s ability to help mitigate demand pressures on the NHS.

“The stark reality is that the quality and choice of care homes will likely get worse, unless immediate action is taken to tackle social care underfunding and implement long-term reform of the sector.”

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