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Posted by: Tracy Bolan

There is little doubt amongst commentators that the care arena is in dire need of a greater number of professionals, and far more needs to be done to encourage young nurses to pursue a career in the care sector. The scale of the crisis has arguably never been clearer, with NatWest’s Care Home Benchmarking Report finding that a surprise increase in the use of agency staff within the UK’s care homes has resulted in nursing home staff costs equating to 55% of turnover.

Agency staff are vital

The significant level of this cost was felt by more than half the nursing homes surveyed and, somewhat unsurprisingly, financial results across the entire sector are falling as a consequence. According to the study, 41% of residential and 52% of nursing homes are left with no choice but to use agency staff and added associated fees increase annual staffing costs by an additional 2%.

In the North the effects of the skills shortages in the sector are starting to become apparent. With the region recording the greatest usage of agency staff for nursing and residential homes after London and the South East, and staff costs as a percentage of turnover are at the top end of those seen anywhere in the country.

Lack of nursing professionals

The lack of qualified nursing professionals is compounding problems created by systemic funding cuts and an ageing population, and with such high margins, care homes need to ensure that they are filling vacancies with the best possible staff, and working collaboratively with diligent recruiters to reduce their reliance on, often costly, agency staff.

More needs to be done to promote the fulfilling nature of the wide variety of roles on offer within the sector. Both the government and care providers themselves need to ensure that they effectively promote the benefits packages on offer and consider the value of providing subsidised training in order to access valuable pools of talented candidates.

By 2025 there will be an additional 1.5m people aged 65 or over in England alone and with turnover in the sector considerably higher than many others, it’s already highly concerning that one in eight care homes indicate they are at risk of closing in the next three years due to financial strain, which is no doubt exasperated by ever rising costs. If the care sector fails to create sustainable talent pipelines now it could be too late – which would be a disaster for the entire healthcare arena in this country.

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