Annual UK care sector roundtables and survey report

The annual Caring Times care home sector survey plus round table meetings, involving key sector personnel and a report supported by Barclays, Knight Frank and Pinsent Masons, has over the past nine years become invaluable. The survey provides insight into sector changes in thought, sentiment and practice.

It is important to note that this survey was carried out before Covid-19.

The impact of Brexit

The most keenly discussed question was the impact of Brexit on the care home sector. The 2019/20 survey showed that 3% thought it would be positive, 52% thought it would be negative and 45% thought it would have no impact.

Positive signals

In other respects, what proved most reassuring from the 2019/2020 survey perhaps is that there were no huge changes from previous years’ surveys. The sector therefore seems stable. For example, operator confidence in their own businesses and the sector more widely remains strong. 63% of operators in 2018 were either extremely or very confident in their businesses, but in 2019/20 this figure had climbed to 78%.

A significant sign of a sector’s confidence is its willingness to invest. The 2019/20 survey showed that 55% of operators were looking to expand, of which 21% were looking to achieve growth by acquisition and 34% were looking to develop their own premises – the latter being a very positive sign because the sector desperately needs new stock.

Another positive signal was operators’ increasing willingness to invest in new technology. For a long-time, residential care has lagged behind other sectors, but it appears that companies are now investing. Over 50% had invested in the previous year of which 31% had invested in digital health technologies and 10% in data and/or corporate social responsibility management technologies and 17% had invested in both.

Challenges ahead

Operators perceived issues surrounding staff as their biggest challenge – as they have done for the previous three years – and in particular staff recruitment. Three-quarters of operators said rising staff costs was an extremely or very significant challenge for them.

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