BCA Open Letter – sent out 24/09/21.
This was also emailed to all the Berkshire MPs, CQC, Radio Berkshire and Berkshire newspapers
All Directors of Adult Social Care and Local Authority Chief Executives in Berkshire
All Chief Executives of Berkshire CCGs
All Chief Executives of Berkshire Health Trusts
All Berkshire Member of Parliament
24th September 2021
As the representative body for all CQC registered providers in Berkshire we feel compelled to write and highlight the many challenging issues and concerns that are being felt by our members across all care sectors within Berkshire.
We acknowledge that over the last 18 months there has been an unprecedented change in all our lives. Throughout this we have held regular (often weekly) Zoom calls where the latest care guidance and Government advice, information, and support has been provided. The meetings have provided a forum where people can network, share experiences and resources, and reducing a feeling of isolation during this challenging time.
As the world opens, we as owners, managers, staff, families, and residents are still coming to terms with the challenges of the pandemic, particularly the restrictions on visiting, wearing PPE, the seemingly weekly changes in guidance, overwhelming intrusion from external regulators requesting data, information and often burdensome documentation to meet their agendas whilst at the same time having to deal with the day to day running of all our services. Now the mandatory Covid vaccination programme and potential flu vaccination for care home staff is hitting us even harder.
Our BCA members confirm to us that they are facing staff shortages because of sickness, enforced isolation, staff wanting or having to return to their home countries and in some cases, staff suffering “burn out” because of the past 18 months. We have always faced a difficulty with recruitment, but the challenges we are currently experiencing are unprecedented, this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Providers are having to balance capacity with available staff and are therefore unable to accept or admit new clients/ residents because of chronic staff shortages. One local small independent provider has converted 4 residents’ rooms into staff accommodation. We are hearing that the community nursing service is under immense pressure too due to the high demand for their services, this will then have a knock-on effect for clients living in their own homes and staff working in the domiciliary care sector. Providers are refusing care contracts and admissions due to staff shortages. One domiciliary care provider has 50% less staff than a year ago and recently very reluctantly had to turn down care packages for 2 people wanting end of life care that would enable them to die in their own home.
What will be the outcome of this challenging situation?
The pressure on care home and domiciliary care capacity will lead to hospitals finding themselves unable to discharge patients back into their homes or residential/ nursing care. The terrible term ‘bed blockers’ will once again hit the headlines but more worryingly those in need of care will not be getting the level they require and deserve.
What can be done?
We are calling for action before things get even worse than they already are. It is recognised everywhere that staff working in the social care sector are poorly paid and whilst we want to recruit staff who genuinely have a passion for care we also know that the cost of living in Berkshire is above the national average. Some of our suggestions include:
- Enabling providers to pay at least the living wage by making the fees paid by the local authority and CCG more in line with the actual cost of care. Providers are often left powerless when trying to negotiate a fair fee for their residents and clients.
Integration and representation
- Really listening to and working with the sector to promote it positively. There remains a feeling of ‘them and us’ where providers are talked at rather than to. Integration is a word used with regularity, but we do not sense any sign of integration.
- Stop ‘drowning’ organisations in unnecessary paperwork. Providers already have an array of reports they are legally obligated to submit. However, they continue to be bombarded with requests for the same information from different areas of health and social care.
- Holding an open forum where voices can be heard, listened to and actions taken. We attend so many meetings on behalf of the sector where progress is minimal or non-existent. Provider attendance is always low and when they do go to a meeting feel overwhelmed by the number of attendees who have little knowledge or experience of working in our speciality. Assumptions are often made on behalf of the sector without asking the sector.
- A Berkshire wide, co-ordinated social care recruitment campaign.
The pressures on our sector are real, and if left unaddressed will increase, resulting in diminished capacity and the NHS, local authorities, and families struggling to find residential care or support in their own homes. For our members and their teams, it will also represent an even more prolonged period of uncertainty and pressure.
The recent Channel 4 drama, Help, put across a compelling insight into the incredibly demanding job our staff face daily, and we have a duty of care not only to our residents but also to them.
In conclusion if there are any aspects of what we have covered that you may wish to discuss further, please contact Sue Dorling, Development Officer who will put you in contact with the appropriate representative from within the organisation.
Berkshire Care Association