As the NHS struggles with the disruptions to patient services caused by the junior doctors’ strike, the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) has warned of serious challenges ahead for hospitals if many care homes are forced out of business by the government’s failure to fund the cost of the national living wage.
RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell said: “As a direct result of the strike, hospitals have been struggling to cope with the pressures of cancelled operations and outpatient appointments. That is bad enough.
“But they could also see a surge in the number of elderly patients blocking beds because there simply aren’t the care home places available for them once they are past the acute stage of the illness that took them into hospital. The knock on effects could potentially be much more disruptive than industrial action by junior medical staff.”
He added: “The government knows the facts. It knows that the social care sector will not be able to afford the ‘hit’ on its staffing costs that the introduction of the national living wage will inflict on them. It knows that cash-strapped local authorities do not have the resources to increase the fees they pay to care homes to cover this hike in expenditure.
“Despite this, the government is steadfastly turning a blind eye and refusing to come up with the 7.5% cash injection needed to avoid a major crisis in the care home sector and the consequent build up of pressures on NHS hospitals.
“Although the government is promising extra resources for social care by 2020, I fear it’s going to be too little too late. We need the extra investment now, not in four or five years’ time. If the government can do it for the NHS, it can do it for social care. As health care and social care are interdependent, it makes sense to treat them in the same way when it comes to funding.”
He concluded: “On behalf of nursing homes throughout the country, I call on the health secretary to take off his blindfold, face the facts, call the chancellor, secure the extra money needed, stop large numbers of care homes closing down, and make sure hospitals continue to admit patients who need their specialist surgical and medical care.”