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Staff shortages hit social care coverage as system at breaking point

By Alan Beresford

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THE crisis in social care in Moray saw difficulty in covering almost 30 care packages last weekend.

Staff shortages left almost 30 care packages with coverage issues recently.
Staff shortages left almost 30 care packages with coverage issues recently.

Staff shortages experienced by Caledonia Care over the weekend of November 6-7 forced Health and Social Care Moray (HSCM) to implement contingency measures to deliver the care packages, which were located in the Buckie and Keith areas.

An HSCM spokeswoman said: “Health and Social Care Moray was advised by care at home provider Caledonia Care that it anticipated difficulty over the weekend [November 6-7] in covering 26 care packages in the Buckie and Keith areas.

"This was due to a high level of staff absence.

"In response, contingency meetings involving Caledonia Care, social work, commissioning, the in-house Care at Home service and commissioned partner Allied Healthcare, were held on Thursday and Friday [November 4-5].

"This collaborative approach enabled all care packages to be safely delivered.

"Social care providers locally and nationally are enduring extreme pressures. Health and Social Care Moray is focused on ensuring the safe delivery of frontline services to people with the greatest need and those at most risk in the current challenging circumstances.

"Colleagues across the health and care system continue to work hard to care for people in our communities with professionalism and dedication.”

News of the staff shortages comes as the latest Moray Integration Joint Board committee heard that there were only a few weeks to solve the social care crisis in the region or risk the entire system collapsing.

Members attending a meeting of the clinical and care governance committee on Thursday, October 28, heard that a mounting workload and lack of staff were causing additional stress for those working in the sector.

Combined with the issues caused by the pandemic, it has created a "perfect storm".

At the moment, 111 people who need home care are not receiving it because of a lack of carers. A further 148 are waiting to have their needs assessed.

IJB chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram told the committee the problems in the sector were being experienced by local authorities across the country and were not unique to Moray.

Moray Integration Joint Board chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram.
Moray Integration Joint Board chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram.

He said: "Out of the crisis in provision we have an opportunity to reset.

"We have a few weeks – not months – to do this as the pressures are now, and we need to make it sustainable."

An equally stark warning was issued by chief social work officer Jane Mackie.

"Demand has grown and things have built up," she continued.

"People are not being assessed on time and those who have been assessed we're not able to provide the service we want to give.

"When you want to get more out of less resources, something has got to give.

"Home care and home carers are the foundations of the service and if that shakes the whole system could crumble."

Care at home workers Danielle Todd and Eugenia Lucas spoke at the meeting to give members an insight of the issues faced by those in the profession.

They highlighted a lack of staff, constantly changing rotas and the difficulties of working alone.

Ms Todd said that while certain medications would require two healthcare workers to administer them in a hospital, she had to do that on her own.

Since the start of the pandemic the number of hours provided for those needing personal and nursing care at home has gone up from 13,000 a week to 14,800 – an increase of 15 per cent.

While 35 new social care assistants were recruited between January and September this year, and eight others had their hours increased, 34 left and 25 staff had their work time reduced. This resulted in a loss of 386 working hours a week.

A drop in family members providing care is also impacting the service, as has an increase in the number of people with complex care needs and those spending their last six months of life at home instead of being in hospital.

An actions report and any financial implications of introducing the recommendations will go to the next meeting of the IJB.

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