The collapse of Four Seasons and the urgent need for social care reform

 A sector for all seasons

A strong care sector has never been more needed. Unfortunately, we’re currently living in a time when the industry is shrinking.

We all know that the NHS is underfunded, and we’re all aware that the population is getting older.

As these people get older, they need more care, either from the NHS, or privately. Sadly, there are less people and less organisations to supply this care. Recent estimates suggest a shortfall in the care sector of over 250,000 people. This is a huge number, and as we expect more and more people to need care when they get older, we can only see the strain on carers becoming even more acute.


Despite the need to grow the care workforce, it is now the case that organisations providing care are not just competing against similar companies for new recruits, they are also up against retailers, supermarkets and the hospitality sectors. Recruiters in these industries are each able to provide better pay and conditions. Furthermore, many people who may have considered a career in care have been put off by a series of issues. Over the past twelve months, we have seen failures at both public and private sector level, including Allied Healthcare before Christmas and more recently, Four Seasons entering administration in April 2019. Four Seasons employs over 22,000 staff across 322 care homes and, while it doesn’t expect any disruption to residents’ lives, or the closure of any of its facilities, it is nonetheless a worrying, but sadly unsurprising development.

The recruitment shortfall and the troubles facing care providers are both concerns that the government has had on its agenda for years, if not decades. A Social Care Green Paper, expected to detail the governments plans to assist the care sector and those working within in it, has been repeatedly delayed, exacerbating an already fragile industry.

Kings Fund concerns

This has been no immediate crisis – it is an issue that has been on the radar for decades and hasn’t been adequately addressed. The Kings Fund suggested that there remains a fundamental lack of understanding by this government over how to respond to an ageing population. It’s hard to disagree with this. The care sector needs reassurance now that the government can seriously act to stem a crisis that is only going to get worse. Unfortunately, the government has been distracted by Brexit, which has dominated the political agenda and will continue to do so.

It is imperative that the government wakes up to the crisis in care happening now. The number of those joining the industry is falling, while at the other end of the scale, more and more care workers are leaving the industry. The government must work alongside the care sector to make sure that those working in care are respected, properly resourced and adequately remunerated to reflect the vital work that they do. The government has made some in-roads with its recent Every Day is Different campaign, in an effort to boost recruits into the industry, but sadly there is much more that needs to be done. The 250,000 shortfall in staff is not going to go away overnight and, with it expected to grow further in the short-term, it’s vital that the government and the industry works closer together to find solutions.

Jonathan Bruce, Managing Director, Prestige Nursing + Care

One Reply to “The collapse of Four Seasons and the urgent need for social care reform”

  1. You have hit the nail on the head here. Given the current political climate, there is little hope of measures being put in place to tackle this issue. It is all the more frustrating that the LGA issued their own green paper last year with proposals to secure and allocate funding, and manage this situation long-term. Why is that document not being taken more seriously?

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