Care homes are closing due to an exodus of staff – leaving NHS hospitals to pick up the pieces, a major report has warned.
Today’s annual report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) paints a bleak picture of a healthcare system on the brink of collapse heading into ‘the most challenging of winters’.
The watchdog warned of ‘unacceptably’ long waits in ambulances and at A&E units, adding that many NHS services were already ‘at or beyond capacity’.
It found social care staff are increasingly leaving to take up better-paid jobs in supermarkets, retail or hospitality.
One in ten essential jobs in care homes is now vacant, nearly twice the level of six months ago.
The CQC said the exodus is likely to accelerate as travel and hospitality speed up recruitment.
Today’s annual report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) paints a bleak picture of a healthcare system on the brink of collapse heading into ‘the most challenging of winters’. [File image]
Some nursing homes are having to shut because their ‘attempts at recruitment have failed’, making it ‘untenable to continue providing care’.
There are fears that more homes could be forced to close when a rule requiring care staff to be double-jabbed against Covid comes into force on November 11, potentially leaving more than 40,000 frontline carers redundant.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said the ‘serious and deteriorating’ care staffing crisis will have knock-on effects for hospitals and GPs.
So desperate, carers with Covid did shifts
By Chris Brooke for The Daily Mail
Staff shortages at one home were so severe that two carers with Covid worked the night shift over a weekend.
The staff were asymptomatic and looked after 11 residents who also had coronavirus, which swept through the Caledonia home in Holyhead, Anglesey, last month.
The 15-bed care home is short-staffed and during this crisis incident most of the staff were off ill of self-isolating.
The staff were asymptomatic and looked after 11 residents who also had coronavirus, which swept through the Caledonia home in Holyhead, Anglesey (pictured above)
Owner Ann Bedford said social services and the local health authority were unable to help and, with no agency care staff available, she was left without night staff.
She said the home, which specialises in dementia care, only got through the weekend because the two ‘fantastic’ staff members who had tested positive agreed to work.
Mrs Bedford, 75, said the two homes she owns have had no Covid deaths and had only been hit recently by the virus after all residents and staff had been fully-jabbed.
‘We are still struggling but we are hanging on,’ she said. ‘When this happened we were short of staff anyway and couldn’t find anyone to help us.
‘I have lung cancer and of course for me it was frightening but even I came in.
‘Obviously I was very careful but I was double-jabbed and got through it, but it was desperate.
‘I was promised help but never got it. We felt abandoned and alone.’
Patients who could be cared for in the community are ending up stuck in hospital, which charities said is ‘deeply ominous for the NHS’ as Covid cases surge.
CQC inspectors raised concerns about ‘unacceptable’ waits in A&E, noting that half of emergency departments were already having to hold patients outside in ambulances every day.
Last night doctors at Wrexham Maelor Hospital in North Wales claimed it is so short-staffed that it’s ‘teetering on a knife-edge’ and just ‘two resignations from collapse’.
Meanwhile, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust declared a critical incident last night and said it is experiencing ‘unprecedented demand… more so this week than at any point during the pandemic’.
The CQC report, based on inspections of more than 32,000 services and providers, looked at all aspects of healthcare.
Mr Trenholm said: ‘If nothing changes social care will continue to lose staff to other sectors, outside of health and social care.
‘The impact of that will ripple right across the wider system, and those ripples will build and become a tsunami of unmet need across all sectors.’
The report called for ‘sharp focus on developing a clearly defined career pathway for social care staff’, including better training and higher pay.
Responding to the findings, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: ‘Social care staff, including nurses, are leaving in their droves which presents a real risk to the continuation of services.’
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the report had highlighted the ‘gradual disintegration’ of the social care system, with providers forced to ‘mothball’ care.
She said: ‘Older people are getting stuck in hospital again when they are medically fit to be discharged, simply because there is not enough care to support them when they get home.
‘This is deeply ominous for the NHS, with the worst of winter yet to come, as well as miserable and counterproductive for any older person concerned.’
Gavin Terry, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘The rising numbers of people seeking emergency care tallies with what we know from our own research –people with dementia are being rushed to hospital with problems like infections, falls and dehydration that quality social care support could have prevented.’
Rachel Harrison, from the GMB Union, called for a minimum pay of £15 an hour for care workers, adding: ‘The care sector is past a crisis – it’s on the verge of collapse.
‘We face 170,000 vacancies by the end of the year and that’s before November’s cliff-edge vaccine deadline forces more career carers out of the door.’
The Department of Health last night announced a new £162.5million workforce retention and recruitment fund to bolster the care workforce.
The ring-fenced funding, available until the end of March, will support local authorities working with providers to recruit staff.
It will also be available to help retain the existing workforce – through overtime payments.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘I want to thank care workers for their commitment and tireless efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – we owe them a debt of gratitude which I am determined to repay through ambitious, sustainable social care reform that prioritises their skills and wellbeing.
‘Our strained workforce may crumble’: The stark warning from one care home manager
A care manager has warned her ‘strained workforce will crumble’ if hit by winter bugs.
Clare Shann, 47, said: ‘We have never found it as tough as we are now to recruit the right people.
‘All of the efforts to preserve the NHS will fall short if there are a shortage of care homes for people to be discharged to.’
Miss Shann, whose family-owned company St Vincent runs four care homes in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week highlighting the impact of the mandatory jab rule on staffing.
Care home manager Clare Shann warned her ‘strained workforce will crumble’ if hit by winter bugs
She said: ‘Whilst I am pro-vaccine, I do not believe that people should have their personal choices taken away.
‘If it is to be mandatory for staff working in care homes then it should also be mandatory for those caring for people in their own homes and for NHS staff.
‘I am now being put into a position where I am going to have to take honest, hardworking, reliable staff through a disciplinary process and eventually have no option other than to dismiss them.’
She added: ‘If, as people are predicting, there will be more severe colds and flu this year, our already strained workforce will crumble.’