A former care minister has stated that surplus NHS land should be utilised for the building of dedicated homes for the elderly.
Paul Burstow, a Lib Dem MP who was responsible for the review of residential care for Demos, said adapted flats and retirement villages were needed, along with traditional care homes. The review suggested the relaxation of planning rules and prices at a level which would encourage investment. In return for this, care providers should be requested to contribute to council care.
This could be achieved by proposed quotas for the portion of the new complexes which are set aside for state-funded care.
This planning model is similar to Section 106 laws which are currently in use to ensure property developers build houses that are affordable.
Approximately 450000 people reside in residential care homes, however the numbers who reside in retirement complexes or extra care apartments is much lower.
According to Mr Burstow, this situation requires change as the residential care has taken a battering due to the recent scandals concerning neglect and abuse in homes.
He added that an alternate solution to aid care homes would be the offering of ‘tenancy rights’ to residents when they move in as this will give them more influence regarding the management of the homes.
He said that since people are living longer, care housing will become more and more crucial to aid in living a happy, healthy and independent life. He stated that government should consider this reality and help to create the correct incentives to allow disabled and older people to have a real choice when they need it.
It is believed that below 40% of the land held by NHS trust is utilised for medical buildings and hospitals.
The Department of Health stated that it was trying to free up land, but stated that it was not going to offer the incentives listed in the Demos report.
NHS land suitable for more than 10000 homes has been sold since 2010. Not all of it has however been used for housing for the elderly.
Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, felt that what was being achieved was appropriate. He said they are in agreement that the surplus NHS land could be put to better use and that is why a programme has been introduced to identify and sell the surplus land.
The publication of the review came after a report from Age UK asked for all new homes to be erected to a lifetime homes standard. This implies that the homes can easily be adapted as people start aging, by the introduction of items such as level-access showers and grab rails.
According to government research, the adaptation of a standard new house design costs around £1500 extra during the building stage.
Age UK have asked for quick action as there are thousands of older people facing hospital discharge delays as they are waiting for home renovations to be done which is harder to accomplish in older properties.
The charity’s director, Caroline Abrahams, said ensuring that homes can be adapted easily would save the country millions and it would stop older people from staying in hospital for extended periods whilst waiting for their homes to be adapted.
Image Credit: DAVID HOLT