More than one in 10 care home staff positions in England were vacant at the end of 2021, according to a report, increasing from 6% to 11.5%.
The staff vacancy rate “continued to steadily increase” throughout last year to reach 11.5% at the end of December, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said. The data is based on responses to the regulator between April 1 to December 31, concerning 8,260 services, around 54% of all residential adult social care services.
In the final quarter of 2021, care home staff vacancies were highest in London – 12.5 per cent – and lowest in the north-east and Yorkshire at 9.5 per cent.
In a related development, the CQC said its survey on the impact of lockdown measures on the wellbeing of people who use care services has a “stark message” on the challenges faced by health and social care services in England.
Almost three quarters of carers (73 per cent) said lockdown restrictions have had an impact on the mental health of the person they care for, while over half (56 per cent) of carers said lockdown restrictions have had an impact on the dignity and independence of the person they care for.
“The recent pressures on services, the emergence of the Omicron variant and the impact this is having on the availability of workforce – a workforce that CQC reported to be exhausted and depleted in our State of Care report in October, continue to impact on the availability and quality of care people receive,” said CQC chief inspector of adult social care Kate Terroni .
Care England and the National Care Forum (NCF) meanwhile urged the government to do more to end the “workforce crisis” in adult social care.
“We need to develop some clear skills and competency frameworks, and a set of portable qualifications, so that people can easily move between employers in social care and indeed between the social care and health sectors,” said chief executive Martin Green.
“The adult social care workforce needs to be recognised as a profession; care workers are skilled individuals who need commensurate pay and career pathways,” he added.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF said: “For months now, the National Care Forum has been warning of a staffing crisis in social care as reported by our members. Providers responding to our most recent survey in January 2022 reported evidence of a deteriorating situation, with 18% vacancy rate and a further 14% absence because of the Omicron variant.
“This data is backed up by ADASS’s winter contingency survey which has found that 49 local authorities are now rationing the care services they commission or taking a number of other exceptional measures, due to staffing shortages.
“This crisis has not been created by Omicron, rather the pandemic has exacerbated pressures caused by chronic underfunding and a lack of workforce planning that were years in the making.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Care staff are working incredibly hard, and to strengthen the workforce we have provided £462.5 million for recruitment and retention, expanded the Health and Care Visa scheme, and are running our Made with Care recruitment campaign.
“We have invested a further £478 million to support safe and timely hospital discharges to get patients into the best place for their care and support to continue.”