Specialist housing integrated with care provision puts less strain on the NHS than residential care homes, according to an independent evaluation for the Department of Health. 

The relatively new “extra care housing” service model usually provides self contained, but private, accommodation for older people with personal care staff available on the premises 24 hours a day.

The University of Kent and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network carried out a DH funded evaluation of 19 extra care housing schemes that opened between 2006 and 2008. All had received part of a DH capital funding pot worth £277m, which was available from 2004 until 2010.

The study found mortality rates among older people “were much lower in extra care housing than predicted”. Based on comparisons with care homes, the researchers predicted that 50 per cent of residents over 65 would have died during the two and a half years after they moved in, but found only 34 per cent had.

Those in extra care housing also showed a slight improvement in physical and cognitive function after six months. A matched sample of care home residents showed a slight decline in both. 

The report’s authors noted that the better health enjoyed by residents meant healthcare costs fell as a result, mainly through a reduction in the intensity of nurse consultations and hospital visits.

Network director Jeremy Porteus said: “Research has shown that well-planned specialist housing for older people can reduce hospital admissions and other demands on NHS budgets.”

Despite the positive findings, analysts Laing and Buisson warned in October that extra care housing may not survive as a long term model for providing care for older people due to the withdrawal of government funds to develop new schemes, combined with the poor financial climate.

  • The Housing Learning and Improvement Network, supported by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, has published a resource pack to help councils and NHS organisations develop deliver extra care housing and other accommodation options for older people in their area.

The pack, Strategic Housing for Older People: planning, designing and delivering housing older people want (SHOP), was written by the Institute of Public Care at Oxford Brookes University.