/ Health

How difficult is it to find a care home?

Care home resident

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from guest authors Fred and PamS who’ve arranged care and hundreds of people who’ve shared their care home experiences. This insight combined with our latest research has revealed a sorry picture of the care system with the majority struggling to find good care.

We recently looked at the problems people have faced when arranging care. Our research found that almost half of those we asked told us they couldn’t find a bed in at least one of the local care homes they looked at.

While finding a care home may be the first hurdle you come up against, it would seem that finding a good care home can often be the second.

Finding a care home

Our latest survey found that a lack of good local places means many people are staying in, or moving loved ones into, care homes they simply aren’t satisfied with.

We found that almost one in five people settled for a care home they had reservations about. Sharing her struggles of finding a care home Hilary told her troubling experience here on Which? Conversation:

‘My sister and I spent over a week visiting different care homes and were very disappointed with most we saw (e.g. smell of urine permeating the home, signs of neglect). Finally found a place at a care home that seemed the ‘best of the bunch’. It was very expensive.

‘We were told that she would have her meals with other residents in a ‘social setting’, and have opportunities to chat and socialise and join in activities. The first week my mum had her meals with other residents in the dining room-cum-lounge. After that, she had to remain in her room for meals. I asked why and was told she was eating too slowly and this wasn’t convenient for staff and other residents. By the end of the second week, she was hardly eating at all.

‘I visited her every day, and we managed to take her out for a visit twice. By the end of the fourth week, she was very frail and had lost interest in life and basically lost the will to live. She died a few days later.’

Our research also found that a similar number of people are opting for a home away from their friends and family. Ann shared her concerns about arranging her own care:

‘I live in fear that I will need to be placed in a failing Care home. I have been diagnosed with MND which is a progressive disease and I know that I will eventually become totally dependent on carers. I have tried to be responsible and have looked for a local care home so I can stay near to my family. Their charges are exorbitant. I have been quoted more than £6k a month!’

For those who did find care eventually, we also found that a quarter of them were left feeling guilty or annoyed that they couldn’t find a more suitable care home.

Making the decision to move a loved one into a care home is difficult enough, so it’s unacceptable that so many are left feeling concerned about the decisions they’ve made, simply because there is no choice available to them. Our Which? Elderly Care website can you find local care homes and services and also offer advice and guidance for those arranging care.

Fix the care system

As some of you may know, we recently launched our Care Needs Care Now campaign is 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.

The Competition and Markets Authority must look at the huge local disparities in care home provision, which is fast reaching crisis point across the country.

The response we’ve had to our campaign has been overwhelming, with over 75,000 people backing our petition. We need the regulator to listen to these stories and recognise that the national picture masks huge differences in the number of care home places available at a local level.

We want the CMA’s care inquiry to make strong recommendations that the government addresses this systemic issue of inadequate provision in its upcoming Green Paper.

Do you think enough is being done to deliver a good care system? If you’ve arranged care before, is there anything you would have done differently? How do you think care could be improved?


I have commented on this topic before, but it related to a well run and organised ‘not for profit’ care home that had an excellent response. I have never heard any response back from my original comment. The care home is in Australia. There are far too many private care homes here that are not worth considering. The majority of care homes that were found to have big faults, or closed down by the government, were private care homes !!

Regards once again,
Norm Taylor.

I was a mental health nurse for 34 years. Some of that time was spent working in care homes. I left nursing because I was so disgusted by the appalling low standards of care in some of the homes I worked in. When I complained I was bullied mercilessly and nothing was done. I have huge concerns with ha ing managers of mental health nursing homes being General nurse trained with no experience in psychiatry. It would NEVER happen the other way round! If we need to break down barriers and de stigmatize mental illness it needs to be stressed that mental health nursing is a professional qualification in its own right and the correctly qualified staff should be running these homes. There needs to be much more genuinely unannounced visits too by CSSIW so that there can be no cover ups which I have seen.When visits are known about in advance higher numbers of staff are on shift and they are usually the most competent. We really need change so this petition is most welcome. Well done.

I was lucky that my mother was in a home that was run as a charity by the catholic church , She was self funding but passed away after a very short time . She would have been cared for as before even with no funds . The home was properly staffed both nursing and care. Even the funeral director commented she was in the best place available . Is this the way to go ?

Pre Thatcher there were local authority run care homes and in spite of them being housed in utilitarian buildings and carpets were scarce they were mostly rated as very good, staffed as they were by a usually adequate number of dedicated staff.

Thatcher forced councils to put all their services out to tender which allowed the private sector to have a virtual monopoly of the care industry and then begin escalating prices to generate profits for an army of investors and to increase those profits costs were reduced as much as possible.

The fact is, putting the care of the elderly in the hands of profit-hungry unbridled capitalism without any low cost and not-for-profit competition is like putting a fox in charge of a hen-house.
The fact is, the residents of care homes run by unbridled capitalists aren’t considered as people but merely as rather inconvenient profit opportunities.
The fact is care homes no longer exist to offer a service to those who can no longer care for themselves in the way local authority care homes used to do – the primary reason any primary care home exists is the high return on investment factor…

In the current economic climate and for the foreseeable future it will be pointless complaining about care home standards; while complaining and regulating might temporarily lift a single home no amount of complaining and regulating will raise the the combined average of the industry and certainly will not persuade the industry to treat residents as people instead of profit opportunities.

The financial pressures mean the industry is in a self-perpetuating vicious circle and the only way forward is to break that circle by Nationalising the whole deal and putting the running of them back into the hands of the local authorities.

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There really is no shame in this country since the Thatcher creature approved of crooks like Lord Hanson. This country has been officially Godless for more than three decades and sharp practice, profiteering and other immorality is smiled on instead of being deplored. In this country these days there is nothing that is not for sale to the highest bidder…

You mention our National regard for animal welfare. It does exist but is confined to the cuddliest types. Most folk don’t spare a thought for our food animals that are factory farmed; the story of eggs is bad enough but I suggest you investigate where the meat comes from to produce chicken nuggets, etc. If egg production is cruel and immoral then the harvesting of poultry meat should send some folk straight to Hell with no trial and no parole. That is just one example that has similarities with the atrocities that happen inside research laboratories – something else Joe Public doesn’t think or care about…
This country isn’t as animal crazy as we like to believe…

A natural byproduct of unbridled capitalism is a social underclass of underpaid, underprivileged, undereducated, underfed, undervalued people. In the USA the underclass accounts for around a third of the population and so far we are lucky as the UK underclass has so far only grown to about 10%, people our masters think of as virtual animals. I think it is only a matter of time before the notion of Soylent Green is considered by our masters…

When our masters express regret and sympathy for victims of overseas tragedy or disaster it costs them little or nothing; expressing regret and sympathy for people at home would be expected to become action that could only be undertaken by spending money – what else could we expect…

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Donald Trump didn’t like it though when the media called him out for some sexist and crude remarks about women he had encountered. He seems like a hands-on President to me. No one can take anything he says on the subject at all seriously.

No one can take anything he says on anything seriously.

Hi guys, it’s always great to see conversations like this and I know the comment section of this convo is filled with some really personal and thought-provoking stories. It would be great if we could keep it on topic, and remember, (until we have a Conversation about Mr Trump?) please keep discussions of him on The Lobby? Thank you.

I agree with Vernon. Someone foolishly changed the goal posts. Now we are in a position where standards cannot be fully enforced because of lack of resources. It seems to me that the only answer is to acquire more, through ring fenced funding from increased taxes.

Until there is a change of heart by those in government and in charge of county councils, under whose remit care & social services falls and care of the elderly, those unable to look after themselves and other vunerable groups things will not change.
These people must start being treated as human beings, many having given long and valuable service to enable the rest of us to enjoy the standard of living we have today. They must be treated with the respect they deserve and are entitled to. They are not an inconvenient expense on the budget sheet of the bean counters in grey suits. The rot started with the abolition of county run home helps, who looked after the same group of people who needed assistance and would provide the care they were told to provide, plus do the occasional extra the client wanted, a bit of shopping etc. Essentially, they knew the client and were often the first to spot if something was amiss and summon the help needed.
Likewise care homes were not run for profit, but for the residents. They were staffed by the correct number of trained staff, under adequate supervision.
Until this country starts to treat it’s elderly and vunerable citizens with the respect found in far eastern and African countries I fear the only thing that will matter is budget cuts and profit margins.