Council spending cuts are predicted to result in the loss of 81,000 care home beds across the UK over the next 10 years, intensifying NHS bed-blocking problems, BUPA has warned.

The UK’s second-largest care home operator said funding-related closures, coupled with increased demand for places, meant almost 100,000 older people could be unable to access the care home places they needed.

Currently there are some 428,000 independent residential home beds, some 52 per cent of which are funded by local authorities, and 8 per cent by the NHS. Estimates indicate that council fees increased by a less-than-inflation average of 0.8 per cent during 2010-11.

Managing director of BUPA Care Services Mark Ellerby, said future below-inflation increase in the fees paid by local authorities to care home operators would be the cause of capacity reductions.

“Tens of thousands of older people who need specialist help will be unable to access care home places,” he said.

“Even if just half of these people were admitted to hospital it would put an intolerable strain on the already-stressed 170,000 NHS beds in the UK.”

NHS Confederation deputy policy director Jo Webber said: “The NHS is extremely worried about this issue as the impact on the NHS could be very significant. It is vital that the money earmarked by the government is spent on social care.

“It is a false economy to allow more, often the most vulnerable, patients end up in hospital rather than providing the right support where they need it most in their communities.

“There are already signs of strain in some places. We know the solution is for the NHS, local government and community services to work together to make sure that patients are discharged from hospital and get the appropriate support as quickly as possible.”