Care homes after Brexit: What will the future hold for elderly and vulnerable care home residents?
I have a passionate interest in the safety of care home residents and I am worried about their future. I am worried that because of Brexit, many care home residents (current and future) will suffer injury or die due to poor care.
My passion about the safety of care home residents started when I became involved in the Orchid View case.
I represented several families of the Orchid View residents who died due to poor care at the 6-week inquest and in the civil claims for compensation that followed.
At the end of the inquest, the coroner said that the home was ‘riddled with institutionalised abuse’. She found that five people died because of the home’s neglect.
In one case, original medication records were destroyed and new records were re-written to cover up a serious medication overdose. Another resident was found naked and in pain with his catheter twisted.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to what happened at Orchid View. It was a heartbreaking case and I have since represented other victims of care home neglect in claims for compensation.
I intend to continue representing the victims of care home neglect, and their families, until care home residents are safe.
But I worry about Brexit and the devastating effects it could have on our already struggling care home industry.
The current position
Although there are many ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ care homes in England, a large number are failing. I looked at some recent inspection data from the CQC for 12,891 of England’s 13,855 registered care homes. 3085 (23.9%) of the care homes inspected failed to meet the required standards[i].
This is unacceptable. I am shocked by the huge number of care homes that fail to provide basic levels of care to their vulnerable residents.
I am concerned that the decision to leave the EU could devastate the care home industry, putting even more residents at risk of injury or death.
The main issues that stand out to me are:
- the possible reduction or ban of EU workers, and
- further cuts to public investment in care homes
A reduction or ban of EU workers
The care home industry relies heavily on migrant workers, from the EU and further away. EU migrants make up an estimated 6% of jobs in the social care sector in England.[ii] That amounts to around 80,000 people.[iii]
If our exit from the EU includes restrictions on movement of labour, this will negatively affect the care home workforce. Various organisations have written about staffing problems in the care home sector:
A report by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre-UK last November, (before the possible restrictions on EU workers was a concern) said that the adult social care sector faced ‘a perfect storm’. They talked about a possible staff shortfall of 1 million by 2037 unless the UK Government relaxed rules on migrant workers to allow low skilled workers from outside Europe to come to Britain.[iv]
Before the referendum, Chai Patel, executive chairman for the UK’s fourth largest care provider, HC-One, wrote to HC-One’s 14,000 employees saying,
“HC-One has relied on the work of colleagues from around the world, including Europe, to provide the kind and professional services we are proud of”.[v]
The National Care Association
The National Care Association has also expressed concern about the possible implications of Brexit on the care home workforce. Nadra Ahmed OBE, executive chair of the National Care Association said,
‘The challenges of recruiting and retaining social care staff has created substantial issues for providers. It is therefore crucial that, as we plan our exit of the EU member states over the coming weeks and months, we remain focused on the sector’s challenges’.[vi]
To add to this problem, The number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to more than double in the next 23 years to over 3.4 million.[vii] This will lead to an increase in the number of people requiring residential care. If we do not have a workforce to meet this increasing demand, what will happen to them?
Cuts in public funding
Cuts in public funding were also of major concern to the care home industry before the vote for Brexit.
During the referendum campaign, ex-chancellor George Osborne, said that the UK would not be able to “afford the size of the public services that we have at the moment” outside the European Union and would have to “cut its cloth” accordingly.[viii]
Earlier this year, in reference to funding cuts, Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said, “The industry is on the brink of disaster,” He warned that without immediate government action there would be a “large-scale corporate failure this year”. He said that the crisis could spread to the NHS, which is already accommodating elderly patients for longer than necessary to ease the burden on care homes[ix]
Chai Patel from HC-One was also concerned about further funding cuts. He said,
“The care sector has gone through a period of very serious reduction in local authority spending. Britain leaving the EU could have a profound effect on our national economy and in turn on public spending. The care sector would struggle to absorb another cut in spending.”[x]
Since the announcement of the decision to leave the EU, the pound’s value plummeted and there has been political turmoil. We now have a new government and nobody knows what our new chancellor, Philip Hammond, will do.
Where does this leave us?
Where will all of the vulnerable, elderly people who deserve care and respect go? Will they instead be blocking hospital beds, leading to further pressure on the NHS?
In my view it feels as though we are heading towards a care crisis on a much grander scale than was already predicted. Only time will tell.
I am an Associate at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in claims involving neglect and injury suffered in residential care and nursing homes. If you or a loved one are concerned about care received at a care home or nursing home, you can contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4859 or at LauraBarlow@boltburdonkemp.co.uk for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Medical Negligence Team will contact you. You can find out more about me and the team here.
[i] Data taken from https://www.cqc.org.uk/search/services/care-homes?f=bundle%3Alocation&f=im_field_status%3A3681 on 8 July 2016
[vii] National population projections for the UK, 2014-based, Office for National Statistics, 2015