Freya Jones and Guy Ward-Jackson report.
Care homes with the highest levels of debt also had the highest death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, Saïd Business School’s latest research shows.
According to a recent study from the Saïd Business School and the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, care homes with the highest levels of debt experienced a death rate more than twice as high as other care homes at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research was based on health data from the Care Quality Commission — the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England — and the finance data from Company House.
Care homes with high levels of debt have been found to have a higher incentive to cut costs, which in turn has a significant impact on both staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE). However, in doing so, operators indirectly increase death rates among their residents.
The research also found that care homes controlled by private equity firms had significantly higher death rates during the initial wave of the pandemic. The average death rate in care homes during the first wave in April 2020 was 3.5%. Care homes controlled by private equity firms had a death rate of 5.5% at this time, over 50% higher.
Dr Betty Wu, one of the researchers from the Glasgow Adam Smith Business School, concluded that “Pressure to cut costs can have devastating effects, but what’s concerning is that this pressure comes at the worst time. High leverage only has an impact in times of crisis, meaning it’s when people need quality care the most, they risk receiving it the least. Nobody knows when crises will strike, leaving those in care to question whether they’re in the best place to receive it.”