Care homes and domiciliary care firms in Wales are being hit by the “triple whammy” of chronic underfunding, issues surrounding staff pay increases and a rise in the number of elderly people.
Urgent action is needed to cope with the challenges, said the chair of Care Forum Wales, which represents around 450 providers,,
“The system has to be considered as a system of national strategic importance”
Mario Kreft claimed the ageing population, a lack of funding and resources, and a major recruitment problem meant the profession was facing a “crisis” unlike any he has seen before.
Giving staff a pay increase to account for the new living wage would also have a “knock-on effect”, he said, warning that the social care sector had now reached “a tipping point”.
In an interview with the BBC this morning, Mr Kreft said he feared the system did not have the staff or resources to cope, with winter just around the corner.
“We have seen over the last few winters huge pressures on the NHS – that’s no criticism on anybody, it’s simply a matter of fact,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Wales programme.
Claim care home sector in Wales ‘at tipping point’
“We have seen huge queues here in Wrexham, across North Wales, across South Wales, of people waiting to be discharged,” he said.
“Without the 12,000 nursing beds, without the 12,000 residential care beds, without all of the domiciliary care providers who enable people to remain in their own homes where would we be,” he added. “The system has to be considered as a system of national strategic importance.”
Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said she backed the warning from Mr Kreft.
“The care home sector is an essential part of the infrastructure required to support the elderly population in Wales, especially as they reach the latter part of their lives, where care needs can become increasingly complex,” she said.
“Therefore, we must ensure the health and social care system in Wales is robust in planning for this increase in demand from this part of the population and, where possible, elderly patients are enabled to remain in their homes with access to domiciliary care,” said Ms Donnelly.
She added: “In cases where higher dependencies are found and nursing intervention is required, we need to ensure that sufficient planning and funding is found in order to guarantee patients are not at risk and are supported by an independent health sector that is vital to the overall management of health and social care in Wales.
Sister says working A&E night shift is more stressful than war zone
“We must also ensure that the recruitment challenges that are currently being faced are tackled, with care workers receiving sufficient amounts of training and development alongside nursing staff in this sector,” she said.
In response, a Welsh government spokesman said there were “undoubtedly challenges facing the sector”, but that ministers were “investing in both our health and social care services”.
“Our focus over the next five years will be to complete the biggest transformation of care in Wales for generations by successfully implementing the major pieces of social care legislation that were passed during the previous assembly,” he added.