Two thirds of home care providers in the UK are having to refuse new requests for care due to severe staff shortages, a major survey has found.
The National Care Forum (NCF) revealed that 66% of home care providers are turning away potential clients, and 21% are having to hand back existing care packages.
Meanwhile, nearly half (43%) of care home providers are closing to new admissions.
The NCF said that pressures facing the social care sector are being compounded by the impact of the Omicron variant and the “limitations” of government support on the frontline.
Overall, providers responding to the survey, conducted last week, reported an 18% vacancy rate and 14% absence rate as a result of the variant.
Vacancy rates have been growing at an alarming rate over the last six months, the NCF said, and have been compounded by policy decisions such as mandatory vaccination.
In addition, providers are having to be much more reliant on agency staff, with a high associated costs, with some NCF members being quoted hourly rates of over £30 for front line staff, and up to £50 an hour for nurses.
Extensive delays to PCR results and insufficient access to lateral flow tests are also increasingly exacerbating staff shortages.
“Delays in PCR results for residents is leaving us unsure as to their Covid status and for staff it is delaying them returning to work,” said one provider.
Vic Rayner (pictured), CEO of the NCF, described the situation as “grim, difficult and relentless”.
She said: “It is unacceptable that yet again, nearly two years on from the start of the pandemic, we continue to see enormous pressures in the care and support sector, this time compounded by the impact of Omicron. Staff shortages are excessively high and everything must be done to support providers to operate safe and quality services, so that people have access to the care and support they need, when they need it.”
Expressing her frustration with the government, she continued: “The adoption of a strategy by government that gives social care the crumbs from the table in an unrealistic hope that somehow it can continue to operate regardless of meaningful attention is negligent. The NCF and our membership have been highlighting the growing shortages in the workforce and the knock-on impact on those who remain working in the sector and those who use care and support services for many months. How many times does this message need to be repeated for it to be heard?”
The NCF survey was carried on January 5-10 on not-for-profit member organisations who support over 130,000 people, operate approximately 5,250 services and employ approximately 98,000 staff.