Nurse recruitment in care homes has reached crisis point, with warnings that managers are struggling to compete with the NHS for staff amid a national workforce shortage.
Lack of available staff is forcing some employers to deregister their nursing homes and forthcoming migration rules affecting overseas workers will only add to the pressure, nurses said yesterday at an event hosted by the King’s Fund.
“Care homes are in direct competition with the NHS for qualified staff and they can’t compete”
Julienne Meyer, professor of nursing care for older adults at City University London, said nurses were already “leaving care homes to go and work in the NHS because they are paid more”.
Ruthe Isden, health programme director at the charity Age UK, agreed, saying: “In some instances care homes are in direct competition with the NHS for qualified staff and they can’t compete.”
She noted that the sector was affected by a raft of problems, including inadequate public funding as well as issues around workforce planning, staff training and low pay rates.
One care home manager said all the overseas nurses they had recruited in the past year to help plug workforce gaps had now left to work in the NHS.
Jayne Muir, from the Caring Homes Group, said: “Recruitment and retention… is the nightmare for us as an organisation. At my care home I took seven nurses from Italy over the last year and I don’t have one left.
“They come over, we train them and give them a good grounding but then they say they are off to the NHS,” she said.
“They come over, we train them and give them a good grounding but then they say they are off to the NHS”
Professor Meyer also highlighted the new migration rules that will see migrant workers forced to leave the country if they earn less than £35,000 a year from next year. “It’s going to decimate the [care home] sector,” she said.
Sharon Blackburn, communications director at the National Care Forum policy, also warned there would be “dire consequences” for the sector if the government introduced its proposed salary threshold for migrant workers. She urged nurses to “raise our voices” against the plans.
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Ms Blackburn also said care providers were in some cases now being forced to deregister as nursing homes due to a lack of qualified staff, with community or district nurses facing increased caseloads as a result.
“They [patients] have transferred to care homes without nursing and the backlog of that is those people don’t stop – just because of a change in registration – needing access to a nurse, so it comes from community or district nurses,” she said.