The NHS and care homes are fighting for nurses as staffing agency rates triple
“Profiteering” agencies are using the nursing crisis in the UK to raise their prices while raising the risk of vulnerable patients having to move care homes and increasing the strain on the NHS. The nurse shortage is currently so bad that some nursing homes are having to downgrade their status to residential care due to a lack of staff. As staffing agency rates triple, it makes it harder for the NHS to discharge patients into the appropriate level of care.
Some hospitals are having to send their own staff into care homes so that the beds can be freed on the wards, and in some areas, the NHS are fighting with care homes for staff. Geoff Butcher is the director of the Blackadder corporation, which runs six homes in the West Midlands. He said that he paid nurses around £19.50 an hour, higher than the NHS rate of £16.52.
“Two of our nurses resigned recently and they’ve gone to an agency for £35 an hour,” he told The Guardian. “And that agency then came to us and said we can have these staff back at £52 an hour. They want £95 an hour for those nurses on a bank holiday night shift. It’s utterly unaffordable.”
“Because the NHS can’t recruit they are having to use these agencies as well. So the NHS is bidding against us, therefore they’re pushing the rates up, and the whole thing has gone into a completely crazy spiral. The agencies are just grossly profiteering out of it. Sometimes I’m finding out half an hour before the shift starts that people aren’t available. But when we see those agency workers again and ask what happened, they say ‘Oh we had to go to work for Wye Valley trust or Worcester general’. So we’ve been gazumped by the NHS or another operator.”
“We’re having to ask existing staff to do more shifts and backfilling with agency staff. We’re trying to find a way of recruiting people from overseas but that takes weeks rather than days.”
There has been a report of an established nursing home that had to deregister from providing nursing care due to the shortage. This change forced 15 vulnerable residents into finding a new home. The report said the home had informed the Care Quality Commission it was “untenable” to continue providing care as the agency fees were into the thousands of pounds every week.
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said: “I think agencies have taken the opportunity to inflate their prices. It’s the effect of market forces, and that is really worrying. It’s profiteering. The government needs to step in and moderate what’s happened.”
She said the sector had always tried to recruit locally, but needed workers from overseas, adding: “That route is now closed and we’re not getting people coming through. Care workers are not on the shortage occupation list.”
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