Care Resort Chiang Mai, a retirement facility that offers 24-hour nursing care, including physiotherapy and dementia support, has seen the number of residents climb from 22 at the end of 2020 to 59 today. Over half are now from the UK. 

“2021 it started to pick up. 2022 it started to build. 2023 it’s boomed, particularly with the British,” says owner Peter Brown. “In the month of November 2022, I had more people come in one month than would come in a year.” 

It’s a similar story across Thailand, with more and more elderly Britons arriving to enjoy their retirement years and benefit from the country’s flourishing social care sector.

The number of British residents at Sunshine International, a nationwide chain of retirement resorts, has jumped from zero prior to the pandemic to 27 today, according to co-owner and founder Andrew Stocks.

Caremaker Ville and VivoCare Residence, long-term care facilities, have meanwhile reported an increase in enquiries from the UK, and HH Premium Visa Consulting, which specialises in Thai retirement visas that individuals need to enter care homes, says there has been a rise in British applications since the pandemic. 

With social care services in the UK on their knees, and the NHS in a similar state of dilapidation, it’s no wonder that many Britons are turning their sights abroad. 

The low costs associated with retirement and nursing care in Thailand are a notable pull factor.

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Age UK puts the weekly price of a care home at £800 and a nursing care at £1,078 a week. In Thailand, £500 more would cover monthly costs with 24-hour care.

“Obviously the price is a huge thing,” says James, a teacher from Cornwall, who is considering moving his father, an Alzheimer’s patient, to Thailand.

“Dad owns a nice home in the UK; a four-bed bungalow that’s got a reasonable value. He doesn’t have a huge amount of savings and we’re in that middle sector that wouldn’t be able to gain any benefits or costs towards any care, or a very limited amount, so if he went into a UK care home then basically the cost of it would eat through the price of the house.

“Dad’s always said he doesn’t want the government to take it in terms of inheritance tax.”

Making the decision slightly easier is the fact that James, who asked to go by a pseudonym to protect his family’s privacy, works in Bangkok and would be able to visit frequently. But the main attraction, he says, is the quality of care available in Thailand.

In the UK, there is no set guidance on the ideal staff-to-resident ratio but, in 2021, British care staff warned of a deficit that was damaging to residents. 

“Social care is experiencing an unprecedented staffing crisis,” said Unison general secretary Christina McAnea, in response to research which revealed that care home residents weren’t getting regular baths or showers, with accidents occurring more frequently and people being left in “wet, dirty beds”.

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