Staffing pressures are mounting on social care amidst the coronavirus pandemic with some services reporting absences of over 50%.
Research by the National Care Forum (NCF) found that absences averaged between 11% and 40% due to a combination of COVID-19 positive cases being picked up by PCR testing, self-isolation following contact tracing, shielding and childcare responsibilities.
The NCF said providers were having to run services through a combination of extra overtime, bringing in staff from other services, not accepting referrals or admissions from hospitals or the community and employing agency staff.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the NCF, said: “It is essential that government takes heed of this early warning signal that care services are under immense pressure. Staff in care services have been at the very front line of this battle against COVID-19 for over 11 months, and are shattered both physically and emotionally. In the midst of this, individuals and teams are stepping up once again to flex and cover large-scale staff absences brought about by a combination of testing, self-isolation, shielding and childcare. They are undoubtedly heroes, but asking them to do this over and again is not sustainable.
“Action is needed now to ensure social care services can provide the care and support so desperately needed. Additional capacity needs to be resourced and built into care services to allow for full staffing to be available in the light of short-term absences of the nature that services are seeing during this period of exceptionally high community transmission. Vaccination for care workers must be delivered at pace, and we need prioritised turnaround of testing from care homes. Every day that we turn a blind eye to the challenges facing social care, our chances of addressing the equally pressing challenges in health care are diminished. The time for action is now.”