Almost 1,000 care homes across England have no registered manager, a watchdog said today.

While there is no direct risk to residents, care homes without a registered head may be less able to spot problems, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

The new Health and Social Care Act 2008, which came into force last week, makes it a requirement for all care homes to have a registered manager. The old legislation, brought in in 2000, also carried the same stipulation.

Yet, despite this, almost 1,000 care homes have no registered manager.

The CQC said today it had placed conditions on those care homes without a registered qualified manager, requiring operators to appoint one.

There are more than 500 different operators running the homes and they must appoint a registered manager by 1April.

If they fail to do so, they will be breaking the law.

Some other care homes have a registered provider who manage their own services on a day-to-day basis, and they do not also need to register as managers.

Another 200 care home providers have had conditions placed on their registration for other “compliance issues,” the CQC said.

Chief executive, Cynthia Bower, said: ” It has been recognised in the care sector for some time that there is a shortage of experienced and qualified managers.

“While we have been undertaking the enormous task of re-registering thousands of care services, the scale of this has become clearer.

“The lack of a registered manager does not necessarily mean that people are receiving poor care, but we know from experience that care services without leadership can struggle to address any problems that may arise.

“The sector as a whole needs to take a robust approach to seeking solutions to the shortage of registered managers. It cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”

Ms Bower said it may not be in the interest of residents to take action against those care homes who are genuinely trying to recruit a manager.

“But if we find that people are being put at risk because there is no registered manager, then we will take action,” she said.

The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) claimed the regulator’s own bureaucratic process was contributing to the problem.

It said care homes which had just recruited new managers to fill vacancies could sometimes face a 14- to 16-week wait for the CQC to register them.