PRESSURE on some unpaid carers looking after elderly people or those with disabilities is "tangible" in York, a city charity has said.

Sally Hutchinson, chief executive of Age UK York, said the charity is struggling to meet the demand for its services with its 50+ advice and information service experiencing its "busiest quarter ever", with many people looking for help with respite or care for people with dementia.

Mrs Hutchinson expressed concern about the lack of availability of quality respite beds in reaction to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's assertion that there are too many care homes people would not be happy to send their relatives to. He said there should be an "Ofsted-style" regime whereby care homes need to shape up or close.

Mrs Hutchinson said: "I agree whole heartedly there should be tough regulation of quality in establishments where we expect people we care about should be looked after properly.

"However, I'm very concerned about the diminishing number of residential nursing and respite beds across the country, I would hope that the threat of rigorous inspections does not accelerate this."

Mr Hunt's comments came as the country's chief inspector of social care said that every week examples of "truly awful care" are brought to light.

Andrea Sutcliffe condemned the abuse and neglect that was still occurring and pledged to crack down on unacceptable care provided in some organisations.

Giving his reaction, Bob Towner, chair of York Older Peoples Assembly, said: "There have been care homes in York to have fallen below the standards anyone would expect. I agree inspections should be more rigorous.

"We need a greater direction of resources to support people living at home if they want to. We have a situation where care homes are full up because it's easier to plonk people there."

He said the nature of care homes needed to change with emphasis on specialist environments for people with dementia.

Inspectors have raised concerns with a number of York homes in recent months. The Press has reported this week how five members of staff at Minster Grange in Haxby Road have been fired after a whistleblower had raised concerns about the care of residents.

A CQC report into Moorlands home at Strensall - part of Mimosa Health Care Group, which went into administration in March - found it did not have enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff on duty to meet people's needs.

In November, we reported how Meadowbeck care home in Osbaldwick and St Catherine’s Care Home in Shipton-by-Beningborough were made subject to enforcement action and Birchlands Care Home in Haxby, and The Lodge residential care home in Heslington were flagged up as needing to improve by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors.