The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) has welcomed what it described as the ‘many positive comments made by MPs about care homes’ in a recent debate about the state of the sector in the House of Commons.
Today, RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell pointed to the opening remarks by Peter Kyle, MP for Hove, who both highlighted the urgent need for extra government cash for social care and described care homes as ‘an essential part of our social care network’.
Mr Kyle told Parliament he had spoken to local independent care home managers who ‘talked with kindness, compassion and outright professionalism about the people they care for day in and day out’ and that this had left a deep impression on him.
Commented Mr Ursell: “Those of us in the care home sector were delighted to hear Peter Kyle’s positive perspective on care homes, which were echoed by other MPs who spoke in the debate. Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, called on his colleagues to celebrate what care homes do, including the innovative treatments they give.
“It was also gratifying to hear many MPs pressing the Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, to do something about the enormous funding problems facing the sector, with many cash-starved local authorities spending well below the economic rate for publicly funded places.
“MPs were also concerned about the additional burden faced by care homes in paying the National Living Wage when it is introduced. Whilst we agree with the MPs who spoke that care home workers deserve more pay for the work they do, it is plain to see that the government has little or no intention of
providing the resources needed to help fund this major increase in running costs.”
He added: “As MPs warned, it is likely that many care homes will close as a result of this. It means desperately needed residential care places will be lost, despite an ageing population and despite unprecedented pressures on NHS hospital beds. A perfect storm is brewing and it is very much a storm of the government’s own making.
“Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, called the government’s proposals for social care ‘risky, uncertain and late’, with the much-vaunted Better Care Fund offering nothing this year and relatively little next year. She has got it spot on.”
Mr Ursell said the House of Commons debate had rightly highlighted the huge amount of money wasted on keeping older patients in hospital when there was no longer a medical need, reflecting the lack of available care home beds to discharge them to or blockages in the social care funding system.
“Keeping such a patient in hospital is costing the NHS and the taxpayer between £200 and £300 a day,” he said. “This amounts to a weekly cost between two and three times more than the average fees being paid to care homes by local authorities for publicly funded residents. More time spent in hospital also exposes vulnerable older people to the greater infection risks associated with an acute care environment.”
As Peter Kyle pointed out to his fellow MPs, independent experts have estimated that an unfunded National Living Wage could result in the loss of up to 37,000 care home places, with a potential knock on effect of pushing up NHS costs by £3 billion if those patients end up in hospital beds.
“These scenarios should horrify the government and push it into action,” said Mr Ursell, who was critical of the Minister’s response to the debate, describing it as ‘lame and predictable’.
“Mr Burt simply came out with the tired old line that by 2019/20 there will be opportunities for a real terms increase in spending on social care,” said Mr Ursell. “We need something tangible now. Older people need something tangible now. How many will miss out on the care they need because the system simply runs out of cash?”
The RNHA says it will be writing to MPs to thank them for their helpful and supportive comments, as well as to the Minister to urge him to act on what MPs had asked him to do.