Almost 200 residential homes have shut their doors in the last year with the loss of 1,033 beds. And the disappearing rooms means more frail elderly people will be stuck in hospital for longer.

Care home owners have cited the recruitment crisis and utility bills rising as much as 500 per cent as reasons for the closures.

At the start of January 2022, there were 12,472 registered care homes but by the end of the year, this had dropped to 12,281, with a loss of 191.

Care home beds stood at 488,518 at the beginning of January 2022 but this had fallen to 487,485 by last December.

Richard Stebles, of, said: "This drop in care homes reflects the tough challenges that the sector faced in 2022. Care homes are now assailed with sky high costs.

"Energy bills have soared and recruitment remains tricky leading to a reliance on more costly agency staff.

"The financial pressures have sadly caused many providers to collapse. It is critical that the UK's care provision can keep up with demand, growing in line with population.

"The consequence is elderly people stuck in NHS facilities with the knock-on effects for waiting times and service for all NHS users."

The figures follow a warning this week that the social care sector is "on the precipice" when it comes to costs.

Care England, which represents around 13,368 care homes, reported 42 per cent of them were either closing some services or handing back contracts to councils because of financial pressures.

The majority (82 per cent) were either in deficit or saw a drop in profits last year. Workforce pay was cited as the most significant cost followed by utility costs with energy and water bills soaring by as much as 500 per cent for some.

The care sector is suffering death by a thousand cuts and every day is able to provide help for fewer people.

The number of over-65s is set to soar but where are the staff they need going to come from when we have care homes closing and 165,000 vacancies?

Years of neglect and underfunding, followed by the pandemic, rocketing costs and that staffing crisis are proving too much for many providers.

The closures last year were mainly small- to medium-sized providers, so they will not attract the publicity that the loss of a major provider would. But how long before that happens?

The Government again ignored social care in the Budget, with Jeremy Hunt eschewing giving the sector the £7billion a year he has previously said it needs.

We need that to create a strong social care sector to provide appropriate care and give vital support to the NHS. Unless we get urgent action those thousand cuts are likely to prove fatal.

2023-03-17T22:07:40Z dg43tfdfdgfd