A shortage of places in care homes across West Sussex has been described as a ‘major problem’ by county councillors.
Members of West Sussex County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee (HASC) were updated on current and future issues of supply and demand in the county’s care market last Thursday.
Officers said that the current bed stock was ‘very full’ and was operating at between 95 and 100 per cent capacity, but the council was supporting the industry by helping to develop the workforce, improving access to training, and upgrading infrastructure.
But committee members expressed concerns at the lack of affordable housing for staff and the need to account for a rising elderly population.
Brenda Smith said that families trying to find care for their loved ones were being ‘forced out’ of Crawley due to a lack of places in care homes.
She added: “This is a major major problem and needs to be looked at now.”
She pointed at the closure of Oakhurst Grange Nursing Home back in 2013 as an example of where beds in Crawley had not been replaced.
Bill Ward said that in reality it was more profitable for developers to close care homes down and build houses there instead.
Officers said that while there were some vacancies in Crawley, the council was looking to change the current situation.
They explained that the population of over 65s in West Sussex is set to double in the next 30 years, with the Arun district currently having the highest proportion.
But they also explained that there were a number of areas with a high proportion of residents between 45 and 55, which could lead to a spike in the number of over 65s in the next 20 years. These were Southwater, Billingshurst, Worthing, south east Crawley, and Barnham.
James Walsh, vice chairman of HASC, said the capacity issue was ‘extremely worrying’ and that some owners of small care homes were closing after suffering adverse inspection reports.
He described attracting the right workforce as the biggest problem, with many care homes turning to overseas staff as they were more willing to accept lower pay.
He added: “Until that’s addressed it’s difficult to see how the workforce can be more motivated to enter [the profession] and stay and be valued and be encouraged to get higher qualifications.”
Meanwhile Anne Jones argued that ‘it all comes back to housing’ as some staff could not afford to live in the area due to a lack of affordable accommodation.
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