A new wheeze to put the squeeze on care homes

Posted on July 6th, by geoff in CT blog. 2 comments

By Guest Blogger LEON SMITH
Executive vice president, Nightingale Hammerson

One of the great challenges in the care sector is staff recruitment. There is a direct correlation in recruiting quality staff with a number of factors which might include working conditions, pay rates, geographical location, unemployment levels etc. Recruitment is already difficult but it is going to get even more so – one could be forgiven  a care providers’ paranoia in imagining civil servants coming into work in the morning and racking their brains for ways in which they could make life even more difficult for them!

The recruitment of care workers can be extremely frustrating and very expensive. Whilst it is possible to find high quality carers it is often necessary to process large numbers of applications before being able to appoint candidates who truly care. Yet the problems for those providing nursing care are even more extreme. There clearly is already a shortage of nurses in this country as evidenced by our need to import so many nurses from overseas. NHS pay rates are simply unaffordable to care home operators. The tax payer can afford it, but private operators, be they commercial or charitable, cannot.

Many care home providers seeking to recruit quality carers were, until several years ago able to look beyond the UK and Europe. This enabled staff to be recruited from the Caribbean, Africa, the Philippines and elsewhere. This opportunity was however closed, and it is now virtually impossible to recruit from beyond the EU. Therefore what a wonderful new wheeze it was to make it even more difficult for us now to recruit nurses from beyond the EU.

We understand that as from 2017, all overseas non-EU nurses currently working in the UK will be asked to leave if their earning do not exceed £35,000. Obviously for a junior nurse, staff nurse or newly qualified nurses, this is simply not going to happen. As it is, attracting young nurses into our sector is very challenging. Many nurses are not attracted by “geriatric” care and wish to pursue careers which they consider to be more “sexy”. Even if the Government decided today that it was going to significantly expand the number of nurse training places in universities, how long would it be before these nurses were able to operate?

This new policy has obviously been introduced purely for political reasons and is simply going to heighten the problems and make life even more difficult and challenging in trying to provide quality care for vulnerable adults in need of nursing care.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 responses to “A new wheeze to put the squeeze on care homes”

  1. The situation is unlikely to get any easier in the short or medium term, as nursing shortages in NHS trusts, across acute and community settings, coupled with a clampdown on agency usage, will mean more raiding parties on residential and home care providers.

    In the absence of better pay for social care workers across the board – and some self-funder providers are starting to look at this – what can be done? There’s no single or easy answer, but in some places, such as Shropshire, the NHS is starting to recognise the issue and is looking to alleviate pressures on hospital admissions by funding NHS nurses to train social care staff. Some providers are also making common cause with the NHS around intermediate care, in return for training and development for their own staff. And we are starting to see the development of ‘hybrid’ roles, not dissimilar to the old State Enrolled Nurse.

    It would be good to see a more concerted response from the social care sector about this issue: perhaps, given that the NHS has made such a hash of its own workforce planning, social care could give them a lesson in how it’s done?

  2. Roger Wharton says:

    It seems that the independent care sector is left with a very complex set of contradictions which when combined will produce the perfect storm that the sector has been highlighting for a number of years. It isn’t helpful to just say ‘we told you so’ because the people we look after and the care homes and domiciliary care agencies responsible for doing so will gradually wither on the vine. The former will spend more time in hospital and the latter will go to the wall or turn their care homes into houses with multiple occupancy.
    At the same time that the care act was in development, the DH were reducing budgets for nurse training and the Home Office were and still are making it impossible to attract nurses from outside the EU. Those inside the EU are returning to their countries of origin as their economies recover and improve over time. District nurses, the vital link between health and social care in the community are an ageing and declining workforce just at the time that the care act encourages greater care at home for longer dealing with people with substantial if not critical needs. Clearly little or no workforce planning has gone into backing up the aspirations of the care act.
    Coincidentally, funding via Local Authorities in the health and care sector has reduced, creating a fragile sector which struggles to make ends meet. LAs and the NHS have been funded to introduce the care act and Dilnot (funding reform) but not a penny has been seen in the private sector to fund these necessary changes, including the care certificate, care assessments, winter pressures plus the additional burdens created by Chester West.
    All these contradictions are contributing to an increasingly clumsy care system which feels over regulated, making it difficult to flush out the positives.
    Perhaps as part of this blog readers would contribute by identifying what they see as the positives.

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