Survey reveals ‘stark’ staffing challenges facing care services

LONDON: Social care providers have had to turn away thousands of people in need of support because they do not have enough staff, according to a new survey of services managers.

The National Care Forum, in partnership with The Outstanding Managers Network, polled 340 registered managers of care homes and domiciliary care services for adults about their workforce challenges, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The average staff vacancy rate across the services was 17%.

Some 67% of the managers polled reported having to take extreme measures in response to staff shortages, including limiting or stopping new admissions or care packages.

A third of respondents (33%) said they had needed to stop or cap admissions from hospitals, while 35% said the same for admissions from the community.

A quarter (25%) had stopped accepting or had to hand back domiciliary care packages from the local authority, while 5% had reduced day service places.

Concerningly, 1% said they had closed or were in the process of closing a service due to staffing challenges.

In total it was estimated that the care providers involved in the survey had needed to turn away almost 5,000 people since 1 September.

One respondent said: “Turned down complex care requests sadly, have not got enough staff to look after new people with complex needs safely.”

Another said the service was not able to provide person-centred care, because they needed to change visit times to align with the availability of staff.

Managers said they themselves had needed to cover care shifts because of a lack of staff, leading to service developments being put on hold.

The National Care Forum and The Outstanding Managers Network are now calling on the government to take action, including funding an immediate pay increase for all care staff.

They also are asking for a delay to the implementation of mandatory vaccinations in care homes.

New legislation means that, from 11 November, all staff will need two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to work in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home for adults in England, unless they have a medical exemption.

Unions and other groups have warned that the policy is pushing care workers to consider quitting their jobs.

Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, said the findings of the new survey demonstrated the “stark reality” facing care providers and managers.

“The significance of this data means that people are not being discharged from hospital when they need to, to continue care and treatment at home or in residential care settings,” she added.

“And providers are having to make very difficult decisions about who they can support – sometimes resulting in people with high or complex needs not getting access to the care and support they desperately need. This cannot continue – it has to stop now.”

Jane Brightman, co-founder of the Outstanding Managers Network, said the results were “very concerning for the winter ahead”.

She said the group was continuing to call for more support from the government to “improve this dire situation”.

Responding to the survey, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless efforts of care workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

“We are providing at least £500m to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4bn to reform social care.

“We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands.

“This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1bn of additional funding for social care this year.”