The number of beds in nursing homes has fallen for the first time in five years, according to the Care Quality Commission.
Data from the CQC, which registers and regulates care home providers, shows the number of beds has decreased by over 400 since the end of March last year, following a rise in capacity of at least 1% a year since 2013 and 7% in 2012.
“I think nurse recruitment this year will be crucial as so much hangs on that”
CQC chief executive David Behan’s report to its latest board meeting, taking place today, ascribed the decrease to ongoing problems in recruiting nurses.
It said the “difficulty nursing homes have in recruiting and retaining nursing staff” and the resulting reliance on agency staff has already “influenced” the quality of care offered in nursing homes and is now “beginning to… impact on capacity”.
The number of nursing homes has also reduced this year – by almost 1% after a steady rise in numbers since 2013, and an almost 7% increase in 2012, according to the figures analysed by Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.
“In the year 2015-2016, the number of nursing homes fell from 4,697 to 4,633 and the number of their beds reduced from 224,674 to 224,026, reversing the increasing trends in the previous five years,” stated the CQC board report for 22 September.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from NHS England showed that in July this year 938 people were delayed from leaving hospital because they were “waiting for a nursing home placement or availability”. This is an increase of 61% from July 2015 and a 9% increase from just the month prior.
The CQC said it has also seen an increase in care homes closing their nursing units. In the first half of 2016, 73 care homes cancelled their CQC registration for “regulated activity of treatment of disease, disorder or injury”, which is required to provide a nursing unit in a home. In 2015, there were 72 cancellations.
The report added: “[The CQC] will continue to keep these trends and the impact on quality under review.”
Richard Humphries square
Richard Humphries, assistant director for policy at the King’s Fund, highlighted that nursing home capacity was a “finely balanced system”, which over the last five years has been “the most buoyant part of the social care market”.
He said: “It remains to be seen whether [this year’s] increase in fees from councils [to nursing care homes] and the effects of the 40% increase in NHS funded nursing care payments will be enough to stabilise the position or [whether] continuing difficulties in recruiting nurses will work in the other direction.
“I think nurse recruitment this year will be crucial as so much hangs on that; obviously nursing homes can’t operate without sufficient registered nurses,” he told HSJ.
The NHS England data shows that delayed transfers of care are at their highest since such information was first recorded in 2010. In July, 6,364 patients were prevented from leaving hospital despite being medically fit due to problems with community care provision – a 30% increase on the same time last year.