The number of elderly Hartlepool residents being cared for out of town has rocketed more than ten-fold in just three years.
A shortage of nursing home beds following home closures in town is said to be one of the main reasons for the rise along with difficulty recruiting staff.
In 2013-14, there were just three placements to homes outside Hartlepool of people aged over 65.
Last year (2015-16) there were 15, and so far this year there has been 38.
One councillor called the figures “alarming”.
Five months ago, Councillor Stephen Thomas, chair of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Adult Services Committee, described the nursing bed situation in town as reaching “crisis point” and called on health chiefs responsible to take urgent action.
If you end up closing six homes those people will have to go somewhere, and they will have to go somewhere that is safe and will give them high quality careJean Golightly, clinical commissioning group
Officials from Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) attended a meeting of the committee to explain what they are doing to try to improve the situation.
Hartlepool has seen six care homes close since May 2014 including two that provided just nursing care.
Karen Hawkins, director of commissioning for the CCG, said it is working to sustain and develop the nursing care market in Hartlepool including giving enhanced payments to providers.
She said: “It’s not a great picture in terms of residential nursing provision.
“We are doing our utmost to sustain the market. We are doing what we can in relation to working in partnership to bring new providers into the area.”
Jean Golightly, director of nursing and quality, said a shortage of nursing staff was being seen across the North East and whole country.
Regarding out of town placements, she said: “I think it’s important to stress that is local to the Tees area but that does not in any way diminish the impact on the individuals and their families.
“But if you end up closing six homes those people will have to go somewhere, and they will have to go somewhere that is safe and will give them high quality care.”
Coun Brenda Loynes said: “It is quite alarming that out of borough placements have gone up to 38.”
Healthwatch Hartlepool representative Gordon Johnson questioned whether the CQC’s new standards regime was too tough, putting homes at risk of closure.
Ms Golightly said it was about making sure homes were safe.
Coun Thomas said: “It is a difficult situation but we do appreciate the work going on to take the issue forward.”
But residential care bed capacity has been boosted after embargoes on homes that previously prevented them taking in new admissions have now all been lifted.
Numbers across Hartlepool stood at 41 as of December 19 compared to 25 last August.
And there are now no care homes in Hartlepool rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.
Jeanette Willis, adult services’ head of strategic commissioning, said: “We are probably in the best position we have been in in about 18 months now in Hartlepool.”
The council says a number of providers have expressed an interest in developing care homes in Hartlepool but plans are still at an early stage.