Admissions to care homes

We analyse how the number of council-supported admissions of adults to residential and nursing care homes has changed over time.


Last updated: 24/03/2021

Access and waiting times
Social care


Avoiding permanent placements in care homes is a measure of delaying dependency, and the ability of local health and social care services to work together to reduce avoidable admissions to care homes. It is widely thought that people prefer to retain their independence and live at home for as long as possible. However, it is not a simple measure of quality, as for some people admission to a care home can represent an improvement in their situation.

How have admissions to care homes changed over time in England? 24/03/2021

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The overall number of council-supported admissions of adults to care homes (residential and nursing homes) has decreased over time. This could be interpreted as an improvement in the quality of home-based social care, resulting in delayed dependency. But since there is no reliable data on home care, it could also represent a fall in social care provision. As there is an ageing population, it could indicate an increasing level of unmet need.

For older adults (aged 65 and over), the rate of admissions to care homes decreased from 659 per 100,000 people in 2014-15 to 578 per 100,000 people in 2018-19, before increasing slightly to 584 per 100,000 people in 2019-20. For younger adults (aged 18 to 64), the rate fell from 14.1 per 100,000 people in 2014-15 to 12.8 in 2016-17, but subsequently increased to 14.6 in 2019-20. The recent increase of admissions in younger adults could represent a positive shift for adults with care needs, such as a learning disability, being discharged from hospitals into more appropriate residential care. However, it could be a sign that local authorities are struggling to fund home care for adults with very high support needs, where admission to a care home may be relatively cheaper.

About this data

This indicator uses data from NHS Digital’s Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework (ASCOF). Indicator 2A measures the number of council-supported adults whose long-term support needs were met by a change of setting to residential and nursing care during the year (excluding transfers between residential and nursing care), as a rate per 100,000 population.

For this indicator, ASCOF sources data from the Short and Long Term Services (SALT) collection. In 2017-18 new routes of access relating to self-funders and new sequels were added to SALT. The impact on the ASCOF scores is expected to be small but this should be considered when comparing data from 2017-18 with previous years.

For more information, please see the ASCOF Handbook of Definitions.