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Care staff shortages pile pressure on NHS, say hospital managers.


Shortages of care staff, who support older or disabled people in the community, are causing major problems for the NHS because they are stuck in hospitals as they have no where to go, according to BBC news.

NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts, says that the situation is "dire.”

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

The 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. This fell to below 6% by June 2020 but rose and, by August 2021, 8.2% of care sector roles were unfilled. Skills for Care says that this amounts to more than 100,000 posts with no one to fill them.

Increasingly, care companies are forced to turn down work supporting patients as they move from hospital back to their own homes or care homes. Those patients have to stay in hospital longer, putting more pressure on an NHS already struggling with Covid-19 and the waiting list backlog.

One hospital manager, who declined to be named, told the BBC: "We've just tipped over the point where delayed discharges are a bigger problem than Covid.”

Another said: “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."

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.”

More than 20 hospital managers across England responded to a BBC information request and their anonymous comments were gathered by NHS Providers, whose deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, said the delays were particularly worrying as winter continued to put extra pressure on services.

Ms Cordery said that not being able to leave hospital when they were ready could delay a patient's recovery and rehabilitation while those waiting for treatment faced backlogs.

She said: "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 and higher pay available in other sectors as the economy picks up.

A clinical manager at Northfield Nursing Home, Sheffield, Tracey Hobson, said: "Recruitment is an absolute nightmare. You wake up in the morning and you're thinking I'm not going to be able to ensure that these people get the care that they deserve."

She says the sector faces a national staff shortage and receives about 20 messages a day from recruitment agencies, desperate to hire her.

Dr Kris Owden  who runs Caremark, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire worked on hospital wards during the pandemic.

Caremark pays relatively well and has managed to recruit enough new staff to replace most of those leaving but Dr Owden said they were still overstretched and have to refuse up to eight new people needing care every day.

He said a properly resourced care system would take pressure off the NHS and wants to see carers paid better, with a proper career structure and recognition of their skills.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ""We are providing at least £500m to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4bn to reform social care and are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands.

"This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing councils with over £1bn of additional funding for social care this year.