Care homes on edge of crisis

SUFFOLK is constantly teetering on the edge of crisis when it comes to shortages in care homes, it has been revealed.Home closures and dwindling staff numbers are some of the problems causing the lack of space which, as a knock on effect, can exacerbate the amount of bedblockers taking up hospital beds.

SUFFOLK is constantly teetering on the edge of crisis when it comes to shortages in care homes, it has been revealed.

Home closures and dwindling staff numbers are some of the problems causing the lack of space which, as a knock on effect, can exacerbate the amount of bedblockers taking up hospital beds.

A spokesman from social care services at Suffolk County Council confirmed that around 100 people are waiting in acute or community hospitals at any one time for a care home place.

Last year four per cent of care home places were lost, although in 2001 the region bucked the national trend by gaining another two per cent.

He said that currently there is not a problem in the county but it only takes one home to close to cause difficulties in an area.

He said: "Last year a series of relatively small homes closed which gave us an immense problem.

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"Over the last year we have found places for all those people."

Although homes will be found, he said, it is not necessarily satisfactory to the resident or their family as it could be five or ten miles away making it difficult for people to visit.

As well as not being enough homes in the county there are also problems with finding enough qualified and trained staff to work.

The spokesman said: "We use quite a lot of agency staff but they are more expensive.

"The other problem is that agencies don't necessarily have people available."

Problems are occurring nationally and a Which? report has shown that an elderly care home crisis has produced a shortage of spaces nationwide.

An investigation suggested that many private care homes across the country are full to capacity.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO EASE THE PROBLEM?

In Suffolk, housing associations and councils are working in partnership to try and provide more places by providing very sheltered housing (VSH) schemes. The county is currently the national leader for the amount of VSH schemes that are provided.

The social care team works closely with the independent and private sector to provide places for people which guarantees home owners a fair income and has recently started paying Golden Hellos of up to £1,500 for homes to take customers on in a bid to keep them in business.

A further £1million has also been ploughed into the system to provide 400 elderly people with care at home.

The spokesman said: "This is what people prefer.

"Many of these people would otherwise be admitted to hospital or would be adding to the numbers wanting a place in a residential or nursing home."

A £4million proposal has just been granted to build an intermediary care unit in Ravenswood which will provide another 32 beds for people who need short term care or are waiting to come out of hospital but cannot quite look after themselves yet. This will also ease the need for short term spaces in care homes.

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