HALTON Council has purchased two new care homes in a bid to alleviate a serious bed shortage.

A report to the executive board reveals that the current level of care is not sustainable, with vacancy rates of five per cent.

This means that at any one time there are only five per cent of available beds free for residents to go into.

A spokesperson for the council said this did not indicate a crisis point but was  worse than the national average, which is about 10 per cent.

The problem was exacerbated by the recent closure of Cartref Care home on Derby Road in Widnes which was forced to close due to financial reasons and meant 25 patients had to be re-homed.

The executive board report reveals that the council was unable to buy Cartref, but has  recently bought Madeline McKenna and Millbrow care homes -both of which are open now.

In a bid to increase capacity, board members will discuss proposals to develop Belvedere, a former homeless shelter in Runcorn, into a nursing home, at a meeting next Thursday.

Belvedere on Cooper Street has been unused for about four years.

The report states: “Belvedere will require substantial refurbishment as it is not adapted for people with disabilities.

"An initial survey identified that it will require a lift, some changes to the layout, every bathroom made into a wet room etc.

"There is no kitchen or industrial laundry area. More detailed work is required to understand the full extent of any renovation.

“In addition work will be undertaken to develop the model of delivery for Belvedere working with partners across social care and health.”

Councillors will also discuss the future of Lilycross Care Centre on Wilmere Lane, Widnes, after Serco pulled out of a contract to convert it into an asylum hostel at the last minute.

Lilycross was shut down in 2015 over safety fears and has been unused ever since.