NCF warns of social care staff pressures

January 11, 2021

The National Care Forum (NCF) has issued an early warning detailing how care providers are under pressure across the country and have been hit hard by staff absences associated with high levels of community transmission of COVID-19.

The NCF asked care providers, in a snapshot survey, to give details of their most challenging staffing situation that they have faced between the 1st January 2021 and the 8th January 2021 across their whole range of services. Care providers shared what was happening on the ground in their most challenged service. The NCF are now calling on the Government to take note of just how hard COVID-19 is hitting on the frontline and warns the Government about the social care staff pressures.

Some of the findings from the survey:

  • Staffing pressure mounting with reports of individual services reporting between 11% and 40% staff absence and a few services reporting staffing absences of over 50%.
  • Absences were caused by a combination of COVID-19 positive case being picked up by PCR testing, self-isolation following contact tracing, shielding and childcare responsibilities.
  • Providers are under huge pressure and, in the very short- term, are having to run services through a combination of offering extra overtime to other staff, bringing in staff from other services and not accepting new referrals or admissions from hospital or the community.
  • Where absences cannot be resolved in-house, care providers were using agency staff – however according to NCF, this is not a sustainable position and must be addressed before social care is overwhelmed.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the NCF said, ‘It is essential that government takes heed of this early warning signal that care services are under immense pressure. Staff in care services have been at the very front line of this battle against COVID-19 for over 11 months and are shattered both physically and emotionally. In the midst of this, individuals and teams are stepping up once again to flex and cover largescale staff absences brought about by a combination of testing, self-isolation, shielding and childcare. They are undoubtedly heroes but asking them to do this over and over again is not sustainable.

‘While the recent focus has been on the pressure being experienced by hospitals and the NHS, this is a red flag that pressure is mounting in the social care sector, too. We must pay close attention to this as social care is integral to the overall system. If people cannot be supported to leave hospital, whether that is by moving into a care home or having care at home, then the whole system will fail. NHS saves lives – but so does social care – and it must be properly supported to ensure that it can play its vital role in making the whole system work for communities.

‘Action is needed now to ensure social care services can provide the care and support so desperately needed. Additional capacity needs to be resourced and built into care services to allow for full staffing to be available in the light of short-term absences of the nature that services are seeing during this period of exceptionally high community transmission.’

The National Care Forum and the University of Leeds have been working with care home colleagues and NHS staff to understand their experiences of caring for older people with COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic. Read the full report: 'LESS-COVID'.

Care Management Matters will be hosting a webinar alongside The National Care Forum on Thursday 14th January, which will share key findings from a new report: 'LESS COVID-19'. Sign up today.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Support care workers in need during COVID-19. Donate to the Care Workers' Charity Emergency Fund. Donate