Call for more funding for cash-strapped care homes

Care homes are struggling due to a lack of funds and increasing pressures due to Covid.

Care homes say fee increase does not cover basic cost of care. - Credit: Getty Images

Care homes in North Somerset have hit out at the ‘disappointing’ increase in fees which they say will not cover the basic cost of care. 

North Somerset Council has increased the fees it pays to care homes by three per cent, while Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) has upped its contribution by the same amount. 

Care home owners say the money is not enough for a sector which has been ravaged by the pandemic, leaving many homes on the brink of closure. Care homes are also struggling with low occupancy, due to Covid, and a huge increase in insurance costs.

More: Care homes let down by 'years of underfunding'.

Property consultancy Knight Frank predicts that 6,500 care homes with about 140,000 beds are at risk of closure across the UK, in the next five years. 

Gordon Butcher, regional chair of the Registered Nursing Home Association, said: “The fee increases offered by both commissioners is extremely disappointing for a sector that has worked so hard through this pandemic. 

“The council’s three per cent is meant to cover a 2.2 per cent increase in the minimum wage leaving 0.8 per cent for increased running costs.  

“In addition, they have offered a ‘one off’ 1.4 per cent to assist with chronic staffing issues. While this additional amount is welcomed, it does not begin to address the key issue of covering the basic cost of care. 

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“The CCGs increased their fees by three per cent; this is for intensive high- end nursing such as palliative care. This uplift does not begin to cover the basic costs of providing this level of care. 

"Providers are rightly questioning if the nightly pan rattling and their adorning praises of the sector was no more than political PR?"

Funding for care home placements is made up of contributions from the local authority, the NHS and the resident – depending on their financial circumstances.

Local CCGs also pay towards continual health care (CHC) - for residents who need palliative care or have very complex needs.  

North Somerset Council’s executive member for health, councillor Mike Bell, has promised to do ‘everything he can’ to push for sustainable funding for the care sector. 

He said: “The council’s annual uplift in fees of three per cent is one of the highest agreed in the South West, and this will help meet the annual cost pressures evidenced by the provider associations, including insurance.  

“The council has already intervened to support individual care homes financially during infection outbreaks and we are looking at how we can best help the care sector weather this storm.  

“I remain in awe of the amazing work done by our care staff in supporting the residents in their care throughout the pandemic.

"I will continue to do everything I can to fight their corner and persuade the Government to act to deliver the long-term sustainable funding for care that is so desperately needed.” 

Although the council's fee increase is one of the highest in the South West, care homes say fees given to providers are one of the lowest in the area.

The Government has extended its Infection Control grant until the end of June, to help care homes to meet additional  Covid costs.

This will enable a further £2million to be distributed to care homes in North Somerset, bringing the total up to more than £10million throughout the pandemic. 

But Mr Butcher stressed that the extra grants only help with additional costs care homes have faced due to the pandemic. He confirmed care homes would need a further £194 a week to meet the basic cost of care. 

He added: "The Government is charging overseas travellers £175 per day to quarantine in UK hotels, yet they expect nursing homes to provide all board and full 24/7 nursing care for £118 per day – that cannot be right?” 

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