Care homes in Scotland struggling to recruit staff

Recruitment and retention into some parts of the social care sector remains a challenge. Picture: Esme Allen
Recruitment and retention into some parts of the social care sector remains a challenge. Picture: Esme Allen
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More than half of care homes for adults and older people plus care at home services in Scotland have staff vacancies, according to a new report.

Joint findings from the Care Inspectorate and the social services regulator Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) said “parts of the social service sector have particular challenges with recruitment and retention of staff”.

The statistics are based on the returns from 89 per cent of 8,000 social care services across Scotland in 2017, which employed an estimated 179,1501 staff. A total of 38 per cent of social care services reported vacancies, up two percentage points on 2016.

Gordon Weir, Care Inspectorate interim chief executive, said: “The Care Inspectorate recognises recruitment and retention into some parts of the social care sector remains a challenge and we collect significant data about the places and parts of the sector where recruitment problems are more challenging.

“Our evidence suggests that having an effective and stable staff team is strongly associated with providing high-quality care.”

Those with vacancies significantly higher than the average included care at home services (62 per cent), care homes for older people (59 per cent), housing support services (59 per cent) and care homes for adults (53 per cent). An estimated 6,700 nurses were working in registered care services as of December 31 2007 and those areas with a higher than average proportion of nursing vacancies included care homes for older people at 46 per cent of services.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, said: “These figures confirm Scotland’s social care system is in the middle of a staffing crisis. The rate of whole time equivalent vacancies is up year-on-year, and the majority of services for old people and for those needing care at home report having unfilled posts. Without a well-staffed and funded social care system our NHS will be under ever greater strain than it is already in areas such as delayed discharge. The Health Secretary must get to grips with this problem or patients will pay the price for her inaction.

“Labour would deliver a better deal for care workers, with a national guarantee banning zero hour contracts and paid time for training and travel.”

Too few applicants with experience was the top reason for problems recruiting at 58 per cent, followed by too few applicants in general at 57 per cent and a lack of applicants with necessary qualifications at 50 per cent.

Lorraine Gray, SSSC chief executive, said: “The data will be used to inform improvement and redesign of services in the sector to address the vacancy issues.”

She said this included nurses working in care homes and a review of child and adolescent mental health services.

Ms Gray stressed the council’s work to promote careers and professional development is key, adding: “It is vital social care continues to attract staff with the right values, skills and experience, as well as filling vacancies.”