- 18 September 2023
- 14 min read
The Largest Care Home Providers In The UKSubscribe To Advice
This guide examines the size and scale of the care home sector and the largest care home providers, answering some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about care homes in the UK.
The care sector in the UK is one of the biggest employers in the country. And with the UK’s ageing population, its significant growth shows no sign of slowing down.
Unlike hospitals and other healthcare settings, care homes are primarily offered within the private sector, rather than within the NHS.
These care homes also vary greatly, with some being part of larger care providers, and others still operating independently.
The Largest Care Home Providers In The UK
Working out which of the UK’s care home providers are the biggest is a little complex in itself.
That’s because there are different ways of measuring it.
We could, for example, calculate the biggest providers by either number of care homes, number of beds, or even market share.
There’s no definitive agreement on the best measurement, but the most commonly used metric is number of beds.
With that metric in mind, here’s a top-five list of the biggest care home providers in the UK, including some useful information about each.
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Four Seasons Healthcare
Four Seasons Healthcare offer just under 17,000 beds across the UK, located within a network of 405 care homes.
Four Seasons is actually the parent company of three care home businesses: Brighterkind, Four Seasons and The Huntercombe Group.
Founded in 1989, it is by most measurements the biggest care home provider in the country.
By market share, HC-One is the largest care home provider in the UK.
But interestingly, that share is only at 3.4%, showing how fragmented the sector is.
HC-One offers a total of 14,000 beds within approximately 324 care homes.
It is a newer but growing business, having been founded in 2011.
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Barchester is another major and well-established care home provider.
It operates around 13,000 beds within approximately 200 care homes across the UK.
It’s market share, at 3.2%, is fractionally under that of HC-One.
Bupa, a global brand known for a wider range of healthcare services, actually operate 130 care homes across the UK.
They became a major operator in the care sector in 2013 when they acquired Richmond Retirement Villages – a set of ten premium retirement communities.
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Care UK provide over 10,000 beds across more than 150 care homes. Their market share of 2.4% is significant, and they also employ around 15,000 people, including more than 1000 nurses. Since 2014 they have opened 55 new homes and currently have 20 more in planning and build.
This comfortably makes them one of the UK’s top five biggest care home providers.
The government’s most recent statistics suggest there are approximately 5,500 care home providers in the UK.
Other Major UK Care Home Providers
There are many other very large care home providers, operating numerous homes regionally and in some cases, nationally.
Here are some of the biggest and best-known:
• Avery Healthcare operates 98 care homes all across the UK, from the south coast to the northeast.
• Sanctuary Care, founded in 1995, also operate 98 care homes across the UK.
• Maria Mallaband Care Group own and operate 78 homes across England and parts of Scotland.
• Methodist Homes is actually a charity but operates 89 homes in the UK.
• Anchor operates more than 120 homes, making it one of the biggest providers in the UK.
How Many Care Home Providers Are There In The UK?
Although this can be a difficult statistic to get an accurate answer for, the government’s most recent statistics suggest there are approximately 5,500 care home providers in the UK.
Given that some of the biggest providers operate multiple homes, many of these providers actually only operate one.
How Many Care Homes Are There In The UK?
There are approximately 17,000 care homes in the UK.
However, there is a useful distinction to make here.
Of those 17,000, around 12,000 are residential care homes, and the other 5000 are classified as nursing home. Which leads us to another question…
What Is The Difference Between A Care Home And A Nursing Home?
Though very similar and sometimes referred to interchangeably, residential care homes and nursing homes are different.
The main difference is that a nursing home always has a qualified nurse on site. Nursing homes are therefore more appropriate for people with specific medical needs or chronic illnesses that require regular monitoring and support.
How Many Care Home Beds Are There In The UK?
There are approximately 458,000 care home beds in the UK.
How Many People Are In Care Homes In The UK Today?
There are currently around 430,000 living in care homes in the UK today.
That’s just over 0.6% of the UK’s population, and 3.9% of people aged 65 and over.
What Is The Care Home Occupancy Rate?
As for how many of those beds are used, the current occupancy rate is estimated to be around 84%.
The occupancy rates dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic but has since returned to pre-pandemic levels.
There are approximately 17,000 care homes and 458,000 care home beds in the UK.
What Proportion Of Care Homes Are In The Private Sector?
Approximately 84% of care homes are run privately.
Of the remaining 16%, 13% are run by the voluntary sector and just 3% are operated by local councils.
It’s a huge shift from a few decades ago, when local councils ran the majority of care homes across the UK.
How Many People Work In Care Homes In The UK?
Just over 750,000 people work in care homes across the UK.
The vacancy rate of just under 10% means that there is still room for a much bigger workforce though.
As the UK’s ageing population continues to grow, the workforce will need to grow too.
How Much Do Care Home Workers Earn?
Care workers operate at lots of different levels, so an average overall salary isn’t particularly useful.
Entry level workers may only earn the UK minimum wage – which is currently £10.42 an hour for anyone over the age of 23.
For care assistants, an average annual salary is likely to be between £18,000 a year and £23,000 a year, depending on experience.
And the average salary for a care home manager is somewhere between £35,000 and £40,000. But again, with specialist skills or enough experience, pay could be much higher than this.
What Is The Difference Between Care Homes And Home Care?
Sometimes the lines between ‘care homes’ and ‘home care’ are blurred.
Essentially, the main difference is obvious. Care homes are residences where patients live and are supported around the clock. Home care is where someone receives the care they need within their own home.
However, many care providers actually provide both kinds of service – that is, they run care homes, and they also employ home care specialists.
Of course, from both the point of view of the person being cared for and the carer themselves, there are many pros and cons of working in each environment.
What Are The Different Types Of Care Homes?
Other than nursing homes and care homes, there are dozens of different types of care homes with different areas of focus.
First and foremost, not all care homes offer care for older people. Many care homes are for young adults with very specific medical conditions, mental health issues or drug dependencies that demand round-the-clock care.
And care homes can also vary in other ways. Retirement villages or extra care housing are more like retirement communities where people can continue to live relatively independently, but with regular support from dedicated carers.
There are also adult day cay centres, mainly focused on ensuring older people can socialise with likeminded people.
The future of the care home sector is complex and will continue to be challenging…it’s difficult to know whether the sector will get the support it badly needs.
What Does The UK Spend On Care Homes Each Year?
In 2021/22, the total expenditure on adult social care in the UK was £26.9 billion.
That’s around a 3% increase on the year before. And from an individual point of view, the average cost of residential care in the UK is £928 per week.
This varies regionally of course, with fees higher in London and the southeast, for example.
Care needs assessments are carried out to calculate whether some local council funding can help to cover these fees. In some cases the NHS also fund care or nursing home places.
What Percentage Of Care Home Residents Are Self-Funded?
Around 126,000, or 35% of care home residents pay for their places themselves. The rest, 65% or approximately 235,000, are state-funded residents.
How Did COVID-19 Affect Care Homes In The UK?
COVID-19 had a number of direct and indirect on the care home sector.
First and foremost it was directly responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, a devastating outcome for patients and their families.
But there were all kinds of other impacts on the sector too.
In the first year of the pandemic, 50% of care homes saw a reduction in the number care staff they employed. In the same period, studies suggested that remaining staff were enormously overworked – 95% of staff surveyed said their workload increased, and 82% said their working hours increased too.
This, in itself, had many other consequences. Many staff decided to leave the sector, while those who remained were left feeling overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, salaries remained at stagnantly low levels, so the extra work didn’t always lead to extra pay.
More fundamentally, the pandemic raised questions about how the care sector was run and funded. Mistakes were made in failing to protect residents when the pandemic broke, and many homes struggled to cope financially.
Since the pandemic occupancy rates have risen and some normality has returned to the sector.
But few would suggest that the sector is now better equipped to cope with another unpredictable event of this nature.
What Does The Future Of The Care Home Sector Look Like?
Many different factors are influencing the future of UK care homes and the challenges faced within this sector.
COVID-19 had a huge effect, with over 40,000 deaths reported within care homes as a direct result of COVID-19.
The pandemic also brought to many people’s attention the wider problems the care sector is facing.
An ageing population means that the care sector needs to grow more quickly than it has in the past. But with a vacancy rate of around 10%, growing the sector is a challenge.
And all of the challenges really come down to money, in different ways.
The care sector needs more funding, and many experts agree it isn’t getting enough.
Meanwhile, many would argue that recruitment and retention issues are directly because of inadequate rates of pay. It’s known, certainly at entry level, as being one of the worst paid sectors in the UK.
This is despite the fact that it really should be considered skilled and challenging work at every level.
So, the future of the care home sector is complex and will continue to be challenging. More staff and more funding are needed – and it’s difficult to know whether the sector will get the support it badly needs.