Lack of care home choice leaving families ‘settling’ for inadequate places

Systemic failure in the care home sector is leaving the majority of people with limited choice and half of people needing care having to wait for a bed, according to new research by Which?.

The consumer champion found that almost half of people (48%) who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one said there weren’t any places in at least one of the local care homes they considered.

The survey asked people who had arranged care for themselves or a loved one in the past 12 months to share their experiences of the care sector and highlights a worrying trend of people not being able to find suitable local care provision.

The research found that a lack of good local places means many people are staying in, or moving loved ones into, care homes they aren’t satisfied with, with almost one in five people (17%) saying they settled for a care home they had reservations about. A similar number (16%) ended up opting for a home away from friends and family.

When they did find a bed, as many as a quarter (25%) of care arrangers said they were left feeling guilty or annoyed that they couldn’t find a more suitable care home.

Fred Horley, 86, from Devon, struggled to find good care for his wife Joan, 83, who has since passed away. He says her poor experience of care has left him worried about his future.

“Joan’s experience was far from satisfactory. At times, my wife was left up to an hour after activating an emergency alarm before any help came. One time she laid on the floor, in the dark, shouting for help.

“My wife’s experience has opened my eyes to what could happen to me when I’m in care. But good quality care homes where I live are difficult to come by, expensive and have few vacancies.”

Which? has launched a campaign calling for the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) inquiry into the care home market to go beyond the immediate issues around quality, fees and complaints and to confront the creaking care sector now, recognising that the national picture masks huge differences in the number of care home places available at a local level.

The CMA’s inquiry into the care home market must make strong recommendations that the Government addresses this systemic issue of inadequate provision in its upcoming Green Paper.


Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:

“Making the decision to move a loved one into a care home is difficult enough, so it is unacceptable that so many families are left feeling guilty or concerned about the choices they have made, simply because there is no choice.

“The Competition and Markets Authority must look at the huge local disparities in care home provision, which are fast reaching crisis point.”




Notes to Editors:

Which?’s Care Needs Care Now campaign can be found at

Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 764 UK adults online who have arranged residential or nursing care for either themselves, a family member or friend in the last 12 months, between 14th and 20th September 2017. The data have not been weighted as there is not a definitive profile of people who have helped to arrange care.

Which? recently highlighted  that almost nine in 10 council areas across England could see a shortfall in care home places emerging by 2022 unless urgent action is taken. A full list of the results by local authority area and link to the research here:

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