Advising with empathy and experience

One nursing home closing every week.

At least one nursing home in England is closing every week, due mainly to a shortage of nurses, official figures suggest.

It means the number of nursing homes and beds has fallen for the first time in five years.

A total of 73 homes cancelled their registration in the first six months of 2016, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said, partly due to recruitment problems.

In the year 2015-2016, the number of nursing homes in England fell from 4,697 to 4,633 and their bed numbers fell from 224,674 to 224,026, reversing the increase of the previous five years.

A total of 73 homes cancelled the element of their registration required to operate as a nursing home in the first half of 2016, compared with 72 in the whole of 2015.

Care Quality commission (CQC) chief inspector of adult social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, said: "One of the fundamental reasons is that homes are having difficulty recruiting and retaining nurses and this has a direct impact on the quality of care that people receive.

"About 47,000 nurses work in adult social care. There is about a nine per cent vacancy rate, which will mean they are depending on agency nurses. And during the last year a third of nurses left their job.”

The regulator changed the way it carried out inspections in 2014, and care homes are now judged on whether they are 'safe, effective, caring, responsive, and well led’.

The CQC said: "The quality of nursing home care continues to be rated lower than other adult social care services."

The health watchdog said 40 per cent are currently rated as either Requiring Improvement or Inadequate, with 60 per cent rated Good and only one per cent as Outstanding.

But the chief executive of the Registered Nursing Home Association, Frank Ursell, is predicting that the number of closures will worsen.

He said: “The demography is telling us we have got an ageing population. We've never had any control over the supply of nurses, so we've always had to rely upon those trained by the NHS.

"If the number of nurses they're training isn't sufficient to meet both the health and social care needs then we are going to have a problem."

The Department of Health said it was funding a £40m leadership programme to create more senior nurses, as well as undergraduate nurse apprentices and student nurse placements in care homes.

But many nursing home owners cannot wait that long with a range of factors, including reduced CQC ratings, deterring potential residents and making the business  in question unsustainable.