Care providers concerned over sustainability of services, survey finds

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association

Almost three-quarters of care providers are concerned about the sustainability of their service, a survey by the National Care Association has revealed.

Worries about increases in staffing costs and personal protective equipment (PPE), and the stress and anxiety suffered by staff and residents during Covid-19 were identified in the poll.

The association said operators were facing beds not being filled due to inadequate fees offered by local authorities (LAs) in some areas, impacting on the viability of services.

Two thirds of respondents had not received notification of additional funding, from their local authority, to meet the extra costs of Covid-19, it found.

The survey said: ‘There appears to be no consistency in the application of the guidelines and way LA’s are managing the money to support providers. During a pandemic it us unacceptable that many LA’s have failed to support care providers leaving vulnerable people at the mercy of a postcode lottery.’

The survey, which attracted 200 responses, follows concerns raised by HC-One last week, which fears occupancy levels could fall as low as 70% by July because of coronavirus and a lack of admissions.

Providers also reported on average they had spent 323% more on stocks of PPE since the beginning of the pandemic, with some spending over 3000% more than normal. The NCA accused some suppliers of profiteering by increasing costs.

NCA chair Nadra Ahmed said: ‘The comments included in the survey tell a story of utter despair as providers have had to fight their way though this pandemic with little information support from government.

‘When funds were eventually released they did not materialise on the frontline and still haven’t – where have all those billions gone? Why on earth did it take so long to recognise the importance of testing?

‘This is the unfolding tragedy of the decisions taken not to support vulnerable people in social care settings: it is unforgivable and government must act immediately to remedy the situation and creating a robust, sustainable sector which can fully meet the needs of our citizens.‘

During Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday (13 May), Boris Johnson pledged an extra £600m for infection control in care and nursing homes.

Labour leader Kier Starmer said yesterday’s official numbers showed at least 40% of all Covid deaths were happening in care homes and asked whether the government was too slow in protecting people in these settings.

The PM replied: ‘Yes it is absolutely true the number of causalities has been too high but… last week and this week the number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down. There is much more to do but we are making progress…’

The extra money follows the launch of a new online portal for care homes to arrange deliveries of coronavirus test kits.

All symptomatic and asymptomatic care home staff and residents in England are now eligible for testing, the government said.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the financial pressures on providers, and believe that the vast majority of councils are acting to address them, but this has proved difficult in the light of the funding shortfall to councils.

‘Nearly half of the first allocation of £1.6bn given to councils in March, to deal with the immediate impact of the pandemic across all council services, has been allocated to adult social care.

‘Additional resources will be needed to allow councils to continue to support social care and other services’