Residential and nursing homes struggle to provide safe care as staff self-isolate with Covid and bosses are forced to beg, borrow and steal to keep them running
A Covid-fuelled staffing crisis like the one crippling the NHS has the care sector “on its knees”, a boss warns.
Nursing and residential homes – already 180,000 workers short – are struggling to find staff who are not stuck in isolation.
Managers at scores of homes are having to pay up to £70 an hour for agency staff or reduce the number of beds they can offer, a care boss told the Sunday People.
Some homes fear staff shortages will mean they can no longer provide safe care – resulting in them having to hand back their local authority contracts and close.
Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said: “We’ve got staff going down like flies with Covid. The sector is already short-staffed so every member of staff that goes into isolation or becomes infected has an impact on the provider to provide services safely.
“The only way they can is by reducing the number of beds they can keep open or rely on profiteering agencies who are charging astronomical fees for staff – anything from £25 to £70 an hour.
“We are in a really challenging position. We have to turn to an agency to stay open or turn to staff, who are already working all the hours God sends, to cover the shifts.
“Care homes are begging, borrowing and stealing staff. Owners and managers are doing night shifts consistently themselves now. The situation is bad.”
NHS England stats for Boxing Day showed 24,632 hospital workers were off ill with Covid or having to isolate – a surge of 31% in a week.
Mrs Ahmed, who represents small and medium-sized care providers, accused the Tory regime of failing to plan properly.
WILLIAM LAILEY / CATERS NEWS)
She said: “The staffing crisis is absolutely horrendous at the moment and the sector is already on its knees. If the NHS is overwhelmed, what do they think will happen to social care? It seems like we are going into 2022 with no real plan from the Government on how we are expected to manage.”
Exhausted workers are already shunning social care. There was a shortage of 120,000 workers in adult social care even before 60,000 workers were sacked in November for refusing to have Covid vaccinations.
Half of England’s councils have had to deal with care homes closing in the past six months. Since then, Covid cases have soared as the super-transmissible Omicron variant rages on.
Care home workers are meant to have two lateral flow tests and a PCR test each week. But delays in turning around results mean staff are waiting up to four days for the outcomes.
A lack of staff means homes such as Boldmere Court in Birmingham – where three staff members tested positive this week – have taken the tough decision to suspend visits.
Manager Kerry Jackson, 45, said: “It’s not a situation anyone wants but we have a duty to keep residents and staff safe. We’re lucky that we’ve only had three staff get Covid. Other homes have had it much, much worse.”