Care homes may run out of places by 2022, according to analysis
The care home market may not have enough places to help elderly people in need by the end of this Parliament, new research suggests.
Almost nine in 10 councils across England could see a shortfall in care home places by 2022, new Which? analysis found.
The shortage will be particularly acute in some parts of the country, with 14 regions needing to increase their current number of care home beds by more than 25%, the consumer champion said.
According to the research, 87% of councils responsible for providing social care may not have enough places to meet potential demand by 2022.
The analysis of how population changes may impact on elderly care beds found only 20 of the 150 council areas are on track to keep up with likely demand. This means the remaining 130 will need to increase provision.
Which? found Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, is set to see the biggest shortfall with 53% more care places needed by 2022.
Lewisham, Haringey, Hartlepool and Milton Keynes are also projected to fall significantly short in providing enough places in five years' time.
But a small number of councils will see a surplus in the number of beds needed, including: Bexley, Peterborough, Stoke-on-Trent, Portsmouth and Trafford. Overall, the analysis suggests a further 42,000 beds will be required in 2022 across the whole of England.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a study in December last year looking at whether the residential care homes sector is working well for elderly people and their families.
Which? is now calling on the CMA to also look at the projected local disparities in social care provision.
Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets at Which?, said: "It's heart-breaking that families who have no choice but to move a relative into care, then have the additional stress of not knowing if they can find a space in a suitable home that's close to loved ones.
"It is vital that the Competition and Markets Authority looks at the potentially huge local disparities in provision, which could reach crisis point if nothing is done."
In August, a paper published in The Lancet predicted almost 190,000 new care home places will be needed in under two decades to accommodate soaring demand.
The number of people aged 65 years or older who will need care home places will rise by 85.7% by 2035 - with 189,043 additional places needed, according to the paper.
And by 2025, an additional 71,215 care home places will be needed compared with today, experts estimated.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "High quality care isn't just about care home beds - 61% of people are cared for in their own home and since 2010 there has been a growth in home care agencies of more than 3,000 - a 53% increase.
"We've given local authorities in England an extra £2 billion boost over the next three years to maintain access for our growing ageing population and to put the social care sector on a sustainable footing for the future."
A CMA spokeswoman added: "We are already aware of the need to ensure that future demand is met and that the investment is there to meet it. We raised these points in our care home update paper in June.
"These services are relied upon by vulnerable people and their families up and down the country - demand for all types of care is only going to increase, so it's vital that the necessary investment is there. We will address this further in our final report."