Shortages of care staff causing major problems for hospitals

Communities / Thu 14th Oct 2021 at 07:53am

SHORTAGES of care staff, who support older or disabled people in the community, are causing major problems for hospitals, the BBC has learned. 

NHS chief executives say rising numbers of patients are stuck in hospitals in England due to a lack of care staff. 

The situation is “dire”, according to NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts.

The government says extra funding and a regular recruitment drive will help boost the care workforce. 

Care companies are facing acute problems in recruiting and retaining staff, according to a report which suggests there are now more unfilled care jobs than before the pandemic

Jobs unfilled

The annual Skills for Care workforce report is based on data provided by a representative sample of employers of England’s 1.54 million care workers.

The researchers calculate that employers were failing to fill 8% of posts before the pandemic.

Figures obtained since suggest this had fallen to below 6% by June 2020 – but by August this year the trend had reversed with 8.2% of care sector roles unfilled. 

This amounts to more than 100,000 posts with no-one to fill them, says Skills for Care. 

Increasingly, care companies are forced to turn down work supporting patients as they move from hospital back to their own homes or care homes. 

‘Hundreds of beds blocked’

Those patients have to stay in hospital longer, putting more pressure on an NHS already struggling with Covid-19 and the waiting list backlog. 

“We’ve just tipped over the point where delayed discharges are a bigger problem than Covid,” said one hospital boss who asked not to be named. 

“Roughly 100 beds blocked and domiciliary care providers are handing dozens of [patient care] packages back to the council as they don’t have staff to deliver them,” said another. 

A third manager had 140 patients ready to leave hospital, but the carer shortage meant “patients are dying in hospital when their choice was home, a hospice or nursing home”.

Just over 20 hospital bosses from across England responded to a BBC request for information. 

The anonymous comments were gathered by NHS Providers, whose deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said the delays are particularly worrying as winter is about to put extra pressure on services. 

Not being able to leave hospital when they are ready can delay a patient’s recovery and rehabilitation, said Ms Cordery, while those waiting for treatment face backlogs.

“It’s vital that government delivers its commitment to place vital social care services onto a sustainable footing.”

She also highlighted the need for “crucially – a sustainable workforce, properly valued and respected for this vitally important work”. 

Care companies say the main factors making it hard to find and keep staff are: 

  • burnout from the pandemic
  • compulsory vaccinations
  • higher pay available in other sectors as the economy picks up
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