It is becoming very clear that we the voters in Scotland need to understand better the nature of the commercial care home industry. Just as most of us have a deep concern for the NHS and its public service ethos, we need to make the future of care for the elderly and the vulnerable in Scotland a key part of the policy debate in our politics.
However, we need to be wary – whether it’s in the context of response to the pandemic or more widely on elderly care provision – of political opponents of the Scottish Government – Unionists/British Nationalists or biased/’lazy’ media outlets – using unchallenged, de-contextualised claims for partisan political ends.
Candidly, information to counter the flow of ‘unreasonable’ narratives on the SG’s support for care homes in Scotland (- there have been real challenges here of that there is no doubt – but just not ONLY and no worse here!) is widely available. What is not widely available are the media channels to communicate counter narratives.
In 2017 the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a report entitled: “Care homes market study’. It reveals some notable facts and insights, just one of which is shared below.
The CMA report states: “The cost structure (of the care home sector) means that maintaining a high level of occupancy is important. In the UK, occupancy rates are 90% on average in nursing homes and 91% in residential homes.”
“Due to the strong incentive to avoid empty beds – as it is hard to reduce costs if beds are unfilled – we would not expect the industry to maintain the high levels of spare capacity that would be necessary to give prospective residents more choice. ”
“We consider that while prospective residents might not have much choice, the pressure on homes to maintain occupancy levels exerts a strong competition pressure to attract residents – as even a small drop in occupancy could have a large impact on profitability.”
This reinforces earlier TuSC posts that the care home sector would be willing – not unwilling – recipients of people transferred from hospital settings especially at a time when spaces were becoming available.
And I suspect these companies would have been only too willing to endorsed this view made explicit by the representative body for the care home sector in New Zealand: their care homes are “… used to managing illness and the staff know how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”