Staffing pressure is mounting among care providers, some of which are reporting over half of their staff off work at once, a survey has found.
The National Care Forum (NCF), a not-for-profit association for social care providers, snapshot survey of around 40 care homes found some reporting that between 11% and 40% staff have been absent at one time, while a few reported staff absences over 50%.
The survey, published last Friday, asked care providers to detail the most challenging staff situation they faced between 1 January and 8 January.
The NCG has warned the high absences – from a combination of Covid-19 positive cases, self-isolation following contact tracing, shielding and childcare responsibilities – should act as a ‘red flag’ that ‘care services are under immense pressure’.
The average staff absence rate across the board in care homes in the UK, according to the NCF, in November 2020 was 7%, so anything above 10% ‘can be regarded as unusual’, it added.
The survey also found that services with the most significant staffing pressures were mainly residential and nursing care home settings.
It discovered the worst-hit providers were located across the country and not just in areas flagged as having high levels of the new Covid-19 variant, such as London and the south-east.
The NCF is recommending that the government pledges extra funding for care homes to ensure they are full staffed, for the vaccination of care workers happen ‘at pace’ and testing be prioritised for care homes.
NCF executive director Vic Rayner said: ‘It is essential that government takes heed of this early warning signal that care services are under immense pressure.
‘While the recent focus has been on the pressure being experienced by hospitals and the NHS, this is a red flag that pressure is mounting in the social care sector too. We must pay close attention to this as social care is integral to the overall system.’
Teams are ‘stepping up once again to flex and cover large-scale staff absences’ but ‘asking them to do this over and again is not sustainable,’ she added.