Staffing agencies triple rates as nursing homes and NHS fight over nurses

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Nursing shortages are allowing ‘profiteering’ staffing agencies to triple their rates, care officials have warned, increasing the risk that vulnerable patients will be forced to move to care homes and increasing the burden on the NHS.

The crisis is forcing some retirement homes to become standard retirement homes without care for people with chronic illnesses.

The shortage is also making it harder for NHS hospitals to offload patients. Some hospitals have redeployed their own staff to nursing homes to free up hospital beds. In other places, NHS trusts compete for staff with care providers.

Geoff Butcher, director of Blackadder Corporation, which operates six homes in the West Midlands, said he paid nurses around £ 19.50 an hour, slightly higher than the NHS rate of £ 16.52. “Two of our nurses recently quit and they went to an agency for £ 35 an hour,” he said. “And that agency then came to us and said we could pick up these staff at £ 52 an hour. They want £ 95 an hour for these night shift nurses on a public holiday. It is totally unaffordable.

“Because the NHS cannot recruit, it has to use these agencies as well. So the NHS is bidding against us, so they are pushing the rates up, and everything has gone into a crazy spiral. Agencies are grossly profiting from this.

“Sometimes I find out half an hour before the start of the shift that people are not available. But when we see these agency workers again and ask what happened, they say ‘Oh, we had to go work for Wye Valley Trust or Worcester General’. So we were spotted by the NHS or another operator.

“We need to ask existing staff to work more shifts and replace agency staff. We are trying to find a way to recruit people from overseas, but it takes weeks rather than days.

In its annual report last month, the Care Quality Commission highlighted the case of an “established nursing home” that deregistered because it could not find enough nurses, forcing 15 residents. vulnerable to find a new home. The report said: “They said there was such a shortage of nurses (and fees ran into the thousands every week for agency nurse coverage) that it was untenable to continue providing care. nurses. “

Nadra Ahmed, President of the National Care Association, said: “I think the agencies took the opportunity to inflate their prices. It’s the effect of market forces, and it’s really worrying. It’s profit. The government must step in and moderate what happened.

“You have a depleted workforce, having gone through Covid, when they were pretty much on their own, and they have the option of not doing that anymore. They can choose not to work on Saturdays or at night. Agencies are aggressively recruiting and making money, but you can see that some people want a work-life balance.

She said the industry had always tried to recruit locally, but needed workers from overseas, adding: “This road is now closed and we are not bringing people through. Caregivers are not on the list of jobs in short supply.

Vacancies in residential care fell from 6% in April to 10.2% in September, and vacancies in nursing were at 13.4%. Data from Skills for Care shows that 410,000 people have left their careers jobs in the past 12 months.

Healthcare providers say they are unable to raise wages to compete with retailers such as Amazon, as funding for many people in social services comes from the government. The average weekly fee for nursing paid by local authorities is £ 764 per person – well below the £ 1,075 needed to generate a sustainable return, according to LaingBuisson analysts.

NHS England began to cap agency staff costs in 2016 by using approved ‘umbrella’ agencies and recruiting through a central body, NHS professionals, although during the pandemic costs have increased considerably. Eddy McDowall, chief executive of the Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers, said a similar system could be put in place by the Department of Health and Welfare.

“A hidden problem has been the poaching of nurses by the NHS, either with subtle encouragement or with overt recruitment,” he said. “A growing number of nursing homes have reported that care staff at all levels simply quit and go to acute care hospitals that are hiring.”

According to NHS figures, 45,328 staff working in care homes for the elderly had not had a second vaccination as of 7 November. New rules on mandatory vaccinations for nursing home staff took effect last week, although workers have until Christmas to provide proof that they are exempt from the requirement.

More than 72,000 caregivers working at home or with young adults have not yet been vaccinated against Covid. They, along with NHS workers, will also need to be fully immunized by April of next year.

The health department said, “We are working to ensure that we have the right number of health and social care staff with the skills to provide high quality care to meet growing demands. Care homes and home care providers will benefit from a new £ 162.5million retention and recruitment fund to bolster the dedicated care workforce.

“We also recently launched our made with care recruitment campaign to encourage people to pursue careers in care. This follows the announcement of £ 5.4bn in additional funding to reform social protection over the next three years, including £ 500m to support the training and career development of the workforce ‘artwork. “

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