A new survey has revealed the impact of “dangerously low” staffing levels on people receiving formal care.
The Unison study, conducted on 1,600 care employees, reveals that some care home residents and clients receiving care in their own homes are being denied a dignified end to their lives due to the staffing crisis.
Workforce shortages also mean people are being left in dirty sheets, denied regular baths or showers and not being helped to dress until the afternoon.
More falls are also happening, and accidents are occurring more frequently.
One care worker said: “The dying aren’t dying with dignity because there’s not enough staff to sit with people in their final hours.”
“People aren’t getting regular baths or showers, just a wash. There’s no time to do the job properly. Some are not getting dressed until 2pm, and assisted feeding is rushed. Staff are exhausted, angry and upset because they know they just don’t have the time to do everything as they should,” said another.
An overwhelming majority (97%) of workers say their care employer is currently experiencing staffing shortages with burnout, overwork, and low pay, or better pay elsewhere, among the main reasons cited.
The findings were based on responses from care workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Just over half (52%) work in care homes, with the rest providing support in other locations such as people’s own homes or in supported living accommodation.
Other findings from the survey include two thirds (67%) of staff saying they are thinking of leaving social care. Unison said this is a “disastrous but inevitable consequence of poverty wages, low morale and years of chronic underfunding”.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This is nothing short of a nightmare for families worried about the care of their loved ones, overworked employees struggling to cope and employers concerned they won’t have the staff to stay open.
“The care sector is desperately short of workers and can’t wait months for the government to come up with a solution.
“Ministers should give all care employees some early festive cheer and announce an across-the-board pay rise. This would persuade many on the verge of quitting to stay and encourage more people to think seriously about working in social care.”
Care workers who took part in the survey were asked to choose a statement that best described the situation where they worked.
A total of 47% said staffing shortages are having a negative impact on the care provided and 31% that staffing levels are dangerously low, getting worse and having a negative impact on the care provided.
This compares with 20% who said there are some staffing shortages but their workplace is managing, and 1% who said the situation is “fine” and there are no serious staffing shortages.
Of those thinking of leaving social care, the top reasons staff gave were burnout, stress, mental health and wellbeing (30%), followed by better pay elsewhere or low pay (29%) and compulsory vaccination (14%).
Other reasons for wanting to quit included poor treatment by their employer (11%) and overwork due to staffing shortages (10%).