PEOPLE in need are being turned away from care homes because of lack of staff, as the sector faces an acute staffing crisis, providers have warned.
Methodist Homes (MHA) joined other not-for-profit providers in publishing an open letter to government ministers which calls for immediate investment in care workers.
Without it, the Government’s “well intentioned plans to equip the NHS for the winter will fall flat”, the MHA chief executive, Sam Monaghan, warned.
He said: “We need the Government to be aware that social care is experiencing the most acute workforce recruitment and retention crisis that we’ve known, with staff turnover in the social-care sector estimated to be around 30 per cent, and growing.
“The impact of Brexit has left a smaller pool of workers for the care sector, and some good people are leaving, exhausted by the pressures of dealing with a pandemic. Others, in some cases, because of the government requirement for Covid vaccination.”
He said that staff were already having to cover tasks outside their normal sphere of work, and were forced to turn away new people in need of care.
“Across MHA, we have had instances of people in all types of roles safely covering a variety of tasks outside their usual remit, as well as having to turn down care home admissions or new care packages for our retirement-living residents because we do not have adequate staffing levels, and we will not compromise the safety and well-being of existing residents.
“Without sufficient care workers, care providers won’t be able to prevent hospital admissions, and won’t be able to help make sure older people are not staying in hospital longer than needed.”
There were 55,019 new vacancies advertised for care workers in the UK last week, data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation shows: the highest vacancy number of any industry.
The HGV driver shortage, which has garnered far more government attention in recent weeks, stood at 7513 new vacancies last week.
A recent survey by the National Care Forum found that, in 74 per cent of care homes, there had been an increase in the number of staff leaving: 50 per cent were leaving because of stress, and 44 per cent leaving for higher wages in other jobs.
Care workers also suffered this week from the fuel shortage: many were left unable to visit residents in their own homes as they were unable to buy fuel.
The open letter to the Government was signed by the National Care Forum, with MHA, Sanctuary group, Anchor Hanover, and the Orders of St John Care Trust. They called for immediate measures to solve the crisis, including adding care workers to the shortage occupation list to enable more staff to come from overseas to work in UK care homes; providing a retention bonus to staff who have worked through the pandemic; and setting up a new fund to support the training and upskilling of staff to help with retention.
They estimated there were more than 112,000 vacancies in all areas in the care sector in the UK.
The letter concludes: “Without the social care workforce we have no care system. Their skills and dedication, highlighted by the pandemic, have been undervalued for too long.”