Dozens of home care companies in England are teetering on the edge of collapse as they struggle to cope with a financial crisis caused by unpaid invoices from local councils and the NHS.
According to shocking research conducted by the Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM), the care industry is facing a monumental challenge due to hundreds of millions of pounds in unpaid bills. The sector is already grappling with a severe recruitment crisis and soaring wages, making the situation even more dire.
One such company, the Doris Jones care agency, which employs 60 dedicated care workers, has been forced to sever ties with the council or NHS-funded individuals due to the alarming risk of financial failure. “It’s impossible to pay our hardworking staff when we’re not receiving our dues,” stated Caroline Southgate, the agency’s Managing Director. She added that this financial turmoil is also hampering the NHS’s discharge process, leading to tragic consequences with lives at stake.
The grave situation has sent shockwaves across the home care providers’ community, with more than one in five fearing that their businesses may collapse in the next six months if this crisis persists.
An estimated £679 million remains unpaid to care providers in England, with a staggering £567 million delayed payments from local authorities and £112 million owed by NHS integrated care boards for continuing healthcare services. Astonishingly, over 60% of respondents reported having invoices unpaid for six months or longer.
Adam Purnell, Director of Social Care at the IHSCM, expressed deep concern over these findings, emphasising that the impact of delayed payments goes beyond mere statistics, wreaking havoc on care providers already grappling with insurance costs, rising energy bills, and workforce shortages.
The social care industry is plagued by a shortage of personnel, with 152,000 vacancies remaining unfilled despite the growing demand from an ageing population with increasingly complex care requirements.
Jane Townson, Director of the Homecare Association, issued a stern warning, calling the late payment of invoices by NHS integrated care boards and local authorities a grave threat to the financial viability of home care providers. Many providers have spent months fighting for payment of thousands of pounds owed for the care they’ve delivered, only to be caught in bureaucratic tangles with no resolution in sight. Townson asserted that there is no excuse for such negligence.
In response, the Local Government Association, representing councils, stated that they are fully aware of the financial pressures faced by adult social care providers in the private and not-for-profit sector. They attributed some delays to the complexities of processing payments at such a massive scale, emphasising that the majority of payments are correct and timely, denying any intentional delay in payments.
The cash flow crisis is not only putting home care providers in jeopardy but also threatening to worsen the already extensive waiting lists for social care. Even with some improvement since the pandemic, a staggering 430,000 individuals were awaiting access to care by the end of March, causing the health and well-being of thousands to deteriorate as they await assessments.
The shortage of social care services is also contributing to blockages in the NHS, with approximately 12,000 patients in England awaiting discharge from hospital beds they no longer require. Access to care at home remains a major hurdle.
The government and concerned authorities must address this escalating crisis urgently, as lives, businesses, and the welfare of thousands hang in the balance. Failure to act promptly may lead to catastrophic consequences for the already strained care sector and the people it serves.