New report on adult social care highlights new challenges and opportunities in the North East

Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co has published its fourth annual report on adult social care. The report highlights the sector’s continued funding and staffing challenges, as well as the causes and impacts of winter 2017/18 which saw unprecedented levels of pressure on NHS hospital trusts, with 24 trusts reporting a ‘Code Black’ state across the UK.

The report, ‘Adult Social Care 2018: Funding, Staffing and the Winter Crisis’, also presents data gathered from surveys of local authorities and over 200 leading operators across elderly and specialist care in the UK, particularly looking at the use of agency staff, costs and fees, and how the Government’s additional funding has been utilised.

Overall, elderly and specialist care providers reported increasing staff costs in the operator survey, particularly in elderly care with the rising costs of skilled agency nursing staff, as providers struggle to balance this with private fees and local authority funding. While both our operator and local authority surveys have shown reasonable overall levels of fee increases, considerable regional variation between average fee rate increases continues. Our report shows that the North East and Yorkshire & The Humber had the two highest overall fee increases this year at 4.4% and 4.1% respectively, well ahead of the national average of 3.3%. While a significant gap remains, with fee rates in the North generally behind other regions, proportionate fee increases have been seen this year which is encouraging for the sector at large.

Similarly, the report analysed the impact of the additional £2 billion pledged by the Government in the March 2017 Budget, £1 billion of which was received by local councils this year. A positive correlation was seen between those authorities allocated the highest budgets and those with the highest increases, demonstrating that the cash injection into the sector is having a material effect, but whether that will be enough to ease the multitude of pressures in social care and the NHS remains to be seen.

Unprecedented levels of demand were placed on the system in the winter of 2017/18 with 24 NHS trusts reporting a state of ‘Code Black’, one of which was in Stockton-on-Tees. Almost half of those trusts which reported a ‘Code Black’ were in areas with the highest levels of delayed discharges and a high density of people aged 65 years or above. Although the local authorities in Yorkshire & The Humber and the North East did not rank in the top ten local authorities with the worst bed blocking issues, which were identified in terms of highest number of days for delayed discharges, bed blocking has continued to have a serious effect on NHS resources, as this year’s winter crisis evidences. The 2018 report reiterates the need for sustainable funding and a joint approach between the NHS and Adult Social Care.

Julie Kitson, Director – Corporate Healthcare at Christie & Co comments, “The North East saw not only the highest overall fee rate increases, but the highest increases across the board for each type of care provided, and with Yorkshire & The Humber trailing not far behind, increased funding has certainly been welcomed news throughout the wider region.

“However, the care sector still faces a series of complex and delicate challenges, with an aging population, rising costs, and a depleted workforce putting severe pressure on the NHS and adult social care providers. Despite fee increases across all the regions, fee rates paid remain insufficient on a national scale and as demonstrated by the winter crisis, additional factors aside from Government funding need to be considered to ensure quality care is provided.”

Michael Hodges, Head of Consultancy – Care at Christie & Co comments, “As we await the Government Green paper, our 2018 research shows that once again the most critical issues revolve around funding and workforce related themes with further complications related to uncertainty connected with Brexit. The pressures placed on the healthcare system by the winter of 2017 and the increasing age of the UK population illustrate the need for additional capacity, which can only be met by a comprehensive suite of policies associated with the key themes identified by our research.”

The full report is available on the Christie & Co website here: https://bit.ly/2QnVlXU