Quick Take: Online Trends in the UK Senior Living Market (2022 Edition)

care home resident and nurse

The Reputation Data Science team have analysed the resident experience trends in 2021 from Carehome and Google reviews of over 2,500 care facilities in the UK. Moreover, we have ranked the top 10 largest senior living groups using our proprietary Reputation Score.

The key findings of our care sector report, updated for 2021/22, are summarised below:

  • Review volume is continuing to grow for the sector with a record number of reviews being posted online in 2021.
  • Much of the positive sentiment in care home reviews centres around ‘staff professionalism’ and ‘nursing care quality’.
  • Review response rates remain lower than 50% but overall engagement has increased.
  • Poor responsiveness from care homes when it comes to online reviews is the main driver of negative sentiment online.
  • Increasingly prevalent in negative reviews are mentions of ‘doctor’ and ‘staff’.
  • Review response is rapid compared to 2020 with a 33.48% increase in response times in 2021.

These key findings illustrate the digital transformation that is continuing in the UK’s care sector. 

Care home operators are seeing the need for tools that enable them to “seek and act on feedback”, as demanded by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of their drive to use feedback to make operational improvements, they must respond to reviews in a timely manner while maximising drivers of positive sentiment through review requesting. Doing so will enable them to rank higher in Google search results and thus increase occupancy rates. 

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1. Industry Trends in the Sector

2. What Does The Data Reveal?

3. Top Private Care Home Rankings

1. Industry Trends in the Care Sector

The UK’s care sector has demonstrated incredible resilience to weather the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the care sector looks set to resume its growth amidst an ageing population with annual revenue expected to rise by 5.1% and occupancy rates set to bounce back after the uncertainty on 2020/21. 

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Care home sector companies must first understand the challenges ahead in 2022 and beyond and then act decisively in response. Only then can capitalise on the opportunities of the post-pandemic period.

Rising Costs and Fee Increases

According to a survey by Knight Frank, care home costs are expected to rise by as much as 30% in 2022. Labour shortages and climbing insurance costs are amongst the factors fuelling these rising costs which may place some care homes in a precarious position. 

The UK’s ageing population means that demand for care home places is continually increasing, squeezing supply and pushing up prices. Of course, with operating costs going up, care home companies will likely have to increase their fees to offset their rising costs. ”

Impress the CQC

The reputation of each care home location is imperative to the business performance of your company overall. A strong reputation builds trust and trust leads to higher occupancy rates. After all, who would commit themselves or a relative to live in a facility which has repeatedly received unfavourable reviews?

To win in the senior living market, providers must portray themselves in the best possible light, particularly online where the customer journey begins. Having an exceptional reputation online can be advantageous to companies, especially amidst reports from the CQC which declared that ‘1 in 6 services fall below the required quality standards’

Private care home facilities ought to demonstrate not only to professional bodies that they “seek and act upon feedback” to provide the highest standard

Be An Oasis In A ‘Care Desert’

According to Age UK, there are areas of the country where ‘sufficient social care is unavailable’. These ‘care deserts’, while a concern to society as a whole, perhaps presents an opportunity to private companies able to provide affordable care independently or in collaboration with agencies and local authorities. 

To address a gap in a particular locality, care home providers must adapt to the new customer journey, which almost invariably starts with Google’s ‘local 3 pack’ – the search results which appear when one searches for ‘care homes near me’. 

The importance of search engines like Google does not just apply to adult children looking for care facilities for parents; search engines matter to seniors themselves with 82% of them using a search engine to gather information on a topic of interest

2. What Does The Data Reveal?

To find out, the Reputation Data Science team examined 73,500 resident ratings/reviews across industry websites such as carehome.co.uk and Google My Business profiles. We used our own proprietary data analysis methodology that uses natural language processing to detect patterns in comments. Here’s what we found:

Review Volumes Continue To Grow

The last decade has seen a boom in the number of online reviews being posted online about care facilities. Considering that over 80% of consumers trust reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family, it is imperative that care home operators equip their businesses with the tools to manage growing review volumes.  

2021 saw a record number of reviews across the 2,500 facilities we analysed. This reflects a broader trend of review volumes increasing year on year.

However, a staggering number of all care facilities continue to have low numbers of reviews and this could be problematic for those operators when it comes to impressing the CQC and winning the trust of residents and their families. Moreover, reviews account for 16% of Google local ranking factor. Lower review numbers mean that a location will not show up in the top three Google results and will thus have lower occupancy rates.

In 2020, Google paused reviews for a few weeks causing a drop in new reviews. But reviews are back bigger than before as families and residents are sharing their experience online. The positive ratings throughout the pandemic is a testament to the amazing work and support provided by carers across the country.

Ratings Remained Consistent Throughout 2021

Throughout 2021, care home ratings remained consistently high around 4.5 or above. December saw a slight decline coinciding with a decline in the overall review volume which spiked in June as public confidence grew amidst reduced restrictions and declining Covid infections. Prior to June, review volumes rose sharply in March as indoor visits returned to care homes.

Response Rates Remain Lower Than 50%

The response rate to reviews from care providers has been increasing along with the volume in recent years but remains under 50%, meaning that more than half of all reviews posted online are left unanswered. The decline in review response rates in 2021 perhaps suggests that many care homes remain ill equipped to deal with the rising review volumes. 

Responding to reviews not only shows residents that they are listened to but also has a direct impact on local search ranking factors. Furthermore, responding to reviews and taking feedback to inform operational changes demonstrates to the CQC that your facility is acting on the feedback it receives.

PPE & Covid-19 Related Reviews Are Declining

The frequency of this topic in reviews is declining as the UK enters the post-pandemic period. The sentiment linked to Covid-19 and PPE remains positive with ratings averaging at around 4.5 out of 5.

Staff Professionalism and Nursing Care Quality are the biggest drivers of positive sentiment in reviews

Resident feedback relating to staff professionalism and nursing care quality are among the most positive categories we analysed from all online reviews. These are important factors for residents and families when choosing a care home provider. As detailed earlier, labour shortages and high turnover are some of the main challenges faced by the industry and their staff is the one resource that underpins growth for care business owners.

The staff at Peregrine House are highly professional, caring, dedicated, hard-working, and open-minded. They have made the difficult months of the pandemic so much easier than seems possible and they deserve the highest recognition for their tireless efforts. Thank you!

The whole process was amazing, from the first point of contact when choosing a home to dad passing away. Every member of staff was exceptionally professional and friendly towards our dad they made him so comfortable in the last months of his life whilst adhering to Covid restrictions they were a great

The standard of care is excellent. Staff have put on special events, including ABBA and Hawaiian afternoons for the residents. Staff all go the extra mile, nothing seems a problem to them. The lifting of Covid restrictions means I have more freedom to come and go, feel I am getting to know everyone

Staff professionalism and nursing care quality are understandably important factors, especially when care homes are competing locally and sometimes with live-in care and other alternatives.

Responsiveness (or lack thereof) continues to generate the most negative sentiment

As seen in 2020, families of care home residents expect care home need to equip themselves to deal with such an increasing volume of online feedback.

Very poor communication, apon entering the care home there was used covid swabs left out on the sides!!! The assistant nurse was extremely rude and swore at me aswell as using a raised voice towards me!!! Then refused me the visiting slot booked over the phone, leaving my relative in the home extremely upset!!! Official complaint made. Waiting on responce!!

The lack of communication from the home regarding visits and facilitating her to communicate with family was distressing for all of us.

Offering a great resident experience means being responsive to residents and families comments. Providers need technologies to help them communicate with their local communities effectively.

3. Top Private Care Home Rankings

We ranked the top 10 largest senior living groups using our proprietary Reputation Score. To arrive at a group’s Reputation Score, we evaluated facilities within each group and aggregated their scores.

Download our report and these care home rankings in a convenient PDF format.  

Reputation Score Sentiment % Visibility % Engagement %
1. Barchester

559

90 52 82
2. Bupa 540 84 50 97
3. Anchor Hanover 532 86 50 66
4. HC-One 514 83 48 66
5. Four Seasons 478 78 47 80
6. Care UK 447 81 46 61
7. Achieve Together 153 58 9 60
8. Priory Adult Care 142 39 8 60
9. Caretech 140 37 6 59
10. Voyage Care 133 42 5 62

The Industry Benchmarks

Best In Class 927 97 68 98
Industry Average 493 73 46 76

What Does It Take To Be A Top Care Home?

When we examined Reputation Scores for patterns in performance, we found that:

  • Leaders (the top performers) outperformed laggards (the bottom performers) in sentiment, visibility, and engagement.
  • Sentiment is especially important because of all the elements of Reputation Score, sentiment has the biggest impact. High ranking Barchester has a high star average score of 90%.  
  • The biggest difference between leaders and laggards: visibility. Leaders rank higher in search engine result pages thanks to a larger volume of recent reviews, and spread across sector-specific reviews sites and most importantly Google.

As we enter the post-pandemic period, care home operators must:

  • Manage online reputation closely and proactively to increase occupancy rates
  • Understand and respond to resident feedback

Get Started

Undertaking digital transformation in your company can seem overwhelming but don’t fret – our Reputation Experience Management (RXM) Guide is here to help professionals in the care industry. Access the guide to gain insight into the actions you can take today to enhance your brand’s online reputation and customer experience to boost business performance overall.

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