Health and Social Care in the Community forthcoming 2022
Suggestions of the existence of so-called ‘social care deserts’ in England in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic drew attention to the potential impact of geographical inequalities on the availability of residential, nursing and domiciliary care. To date, much of this analysis has been conducted at spatially aggregated scales such as that of local authorities or postcode sector. Hidden within such aggregate-level analysis however are geographical differences in the local provision of care services. In this paper, we draw attention to geographical modelling techniques that can be used to examine local trends in the supply of social care services in relation to potential demand. These spatial models can be used to examine variations in the number of facilities (or choice) within reasonable drive times/distances. Drawing on a national database of residential and nursing care beds in Wales for March 2020, we illustrate the potential of such techniques to provide an insight into current patterns in access to care homes, and to monitor future changes in the fall-out from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the care home sector. The concentration of care home sites in metropolitan areas and in the heavily populated post-industrial valleys in the south-east is identified, but significant demand present in these areas ameliorates scores towards mid-range ratios. We conclude by suggesting that the types of techniques used in this study enable disparities in provision within localised areas to be better explored, thereby helping planners and policy makers to address potential inequalities in provision.