My colleague recently wrote an article on the Government’s plans to block-beds in care homes in order to ease pressures on the NHS. Unsurprisingly, the care sector has not responded favourably to this.
Chief Executive of Care England, Martin Green, has stated that care homes will need at least £1500 per bed per week to accommodate the proposed scheme, which is around double the usual rates that councils pay for beds.
It also seems that the staffing shortage in the sector persists and poses a serious problem to the practicality and feasibility of this plan. Green has emphasised the need to hire more staff in order to accommodate the needs of these discharged patients and even suggested that having a separate unit for them may be necessary.
Allegedly discharged patients will receive the support they need from GPs, nurses, and other community based clinicians.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has stated that the NHS pressures are rooted in increased cases of flu, COVID-19 and Strep A. However, health leaders state that the primary problem is a workforce shortage. There are currently 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector, which is roughly 10% of the total workforce.
According to Mike Padgham, managing director at Saint Cecilia’s Care group, he is seeing the most acute staffing challenges he has ever experienced. He states there are free beds but not enough staff to provide the necessary care.
Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, has called this solution “sticking plasters” and urges to more efforts to be made in staff recruitment, pay rises, and training. It would appear he agrees with the sector that offloading the pressures on the NHS to care homes is not sustainable nor feasible with current staffing and resource issues.
CEO of Shaw Healthcare, Russell Brown, has welcomed the funding but categorised it as a short-term solution and, similar to other industry leaders, called for a long-term plan which promotes better integrating and collaboration between the NSH and social care, stating that “Care home providers need to be elevated to the same status as NHS providers and for this to happen they need to receive a basic fair fee that enables them to invest in their employees, buildings, equipment and technology to ensure the best quality of care for residents,” and has quoted a fee of at least £1000 per bed per week.
Other industry leaders who agree that the finding is welcome, but not a long-term solution include Jake Rollin, director of commissioned care and commercial support at HC-One; Lisa Morgan, partner at Hugh James Solicitors; Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF); and Sarah McClinton, the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) president.
Jayne Connery, director, Care Campaign for the Vulnerable (CCFTV) has quite clearly stated that the pressures currently being experienced by the NHS are also being experienced in the care sector, particularly when it comes to staffing. Thus, while the funding is welcomed, it does not serve to create a solution for a long-term issue that is rooted in staff infrastructure. Jayne has also noted that many providers are relying on unprecedented amounts of agency hours and international recruitment takes time and money which is simply not available, and warns “That will result in poor standards of care at many locations, a possible increase in the number of safeguarding referrals and untoward incidents, a greater risk of abuse and negligence and sadly, a number of premature deaths.”
Ultimately the care sector sees this as a short-term solve for a long-term, systematic problem. The root of the issue is staffing and something which the Government needs to address on an infrastructural and sustainable level.