Why Care Home Vacancies are about to get much more difficult to find

The BBC recently crafted an article that suggests that by the end of 2018 up to 3,000 elderly people will be unable to get a bed in a care home. This figure is set to increase and reach a total of 14,000 by 2026. It is a worrying trend and one that is set to increase. The research was conducted by the BBC’s You and Yours programme.

Why is this shortfall occurring?

In the past three years, one in every 20 UK Care Home Beds has closed. Research carried out by property consultants, JLL, found that since 2002 an average of 7,000 new care home beds had opened. By 2026 there would be an additional 14,000 people needing residential care home places each year, a huge shortfall. The lead researcher for the project, James Kingdom, said: "We're currently building half the number of care home beds every year that we need."

With people living longer, we need to pick up the pace and start to build more care homes or risk exacerbating problems such as delayed discharges of care. A problem that costs the NHS in England an estimated £900 million per year. With a further shortage in care provider beds expected, a solution is needed.

Delayed Discharge of Care (DTOC)

A long-term problem that is about to get worse due to the shortfall in care provider vacancies. It is an issue that has been seen for what it is, a national crisis and one that has been given the funding it deserves in order to attempt to solve. More than one billion pounds was allocated by the UK government to stem the tide earlier this year. 

To solve the problems associated with DTOC many issues need to be sorted. From the lack of care provider vacancies to the problems associated with booking a room, the problem needs to be looked at from the top down. It needs to be tackled in a universal manner with every local authority inputting.

Within the confines of the last three years alone, 21,500 beds within care provider organisations have been closed. This number is set to accelerate with some homes struggling to fill their vacancies. Crazily, despite the reduced amount of beds, the lack of visibility means occupancy can be a problem for many providers with many beds remaining unused. This affects the profitability of the care home.  In addition, it means that care homes end up spending thousands of pounds in advertising to try to solve the situation, reducing profitability further. The delays appearing within the DTOC process only serving to exacerbate the problem of closed beds. What can be done?

The process

Taking the problem of not enough care homes being built out of the equation for a moment and focusing on the visibility of vacancies, what do you have? At a base level, you have an antiquated process. What do we mean by this? The current process of searching for a vacancy in a care provider’s home is manual. It involves a home finder in a local authority calling around to all the homes in the area to find a suitable vacancy until successful. As you can imagine this is a very time consuming and costly process.

It means that you need to allocate more individuals to the home finding team as this is a priority. Within this process there is the acceptance that you will need a large team as searching for one vacancy alone could take hours. In addition to the process costing large amounts of money and seemingly being a drain on resources, it also has a human cost. For each day that an elderly patient is left in hospital, they lose up to 5% of their muscle strength.

Solution? BedFinder

Simply named, BedFinder, the App makes Social Care and Hospital Discharge team’s much more efficient, removing the considerable wasted time spent calling round to care providers trying to find a suitable vacancy. In its place, the user now only needs to check the easy-to-use system for vacancies and book the space online. The time-saving nature of this change in process being priceless.

The modern interface and easy to view availability timeline greatly assists users in their day-to-day jobs. The functionality not only enables the smooth booking of care beds, but it is very useful for providers as it assists them with reporting and pre-planning of their operations. They are able to see when peak periods are likely to occur and pre-plan accordingly.

The system is intuitive and prevents double bookings. Once someone has reserved a room, it will be passed over to the care provider to approve or decline. Only care providers will have the power to amend the system, with email reminders and updates being automatically generated from the system if so desired.

The authority that we have piloted the software with has recorded savings of 350 hospital days within less than six months. By using less than 1% of their share of the one billion pounds allocated to them and by looking inwardly, they have saved thousands of pounds and you could do the same.

BedFinder also gives you full visibility to the whole market and of the needs of the community, enabling the Local Authority to manage the market capacity and help fulfil unmet needs. This was one of the requirements of the Care Act.

The future of care home placement and hospital discharge will no doubt be tougher, but there are smarter ways of working that will help alleviate the situation.