Homecare providers refusing requests for care, NCF survey finds

Vic Rayner

Two-thirds (66%) of homecare providers are refusing new requests for care, while one in five (21%) are handing back existing packages.  

A survey by the National Care Forum (NCF) has illustrated some of the pressures facing the sector, which also showed 43% of care home operators not accepting new admissions. The survey was conducted between 5-10 January, with responses from non-for-profit organisations who support over 130,000 people, operate 5,250 services and employ 98,000 staff.

Increasing pressures are due to the impact of the Omicron variant and limitations of government support on the frontline, the forum said.

Providers responding reported 18% vacancy rate and 14% absence because of Omicron. While absenteeism may be temporary, the vacancy rate has been growing over the last six months and has been compounded by other policy decisions such as mandating vaccines as a condition of deployment, the NCF said.

Providers are having to rely on agency staff, with some NCF members being quoted hourly rates of over £30 for frontline workers, and up to £50 for nurses.

In December the government said an extra £60m would be provided to local authorities to support the adult social care response to Covid-19 this month. The money was on top of the £388m infection control and testing fund announced in October (before Omicron was detected) to prevent infections and provide testing in the sector.

However, respondents to the NCF survey said there were delays to PCR results and insufficient access to lateral flow tests, which were worsening staff shortages.

‘It is unacceptable that yet again, nearly two years on from the start of the pandemic, we continue to see enormous pressures in the care and support sector, this time compounded by the impact of Omicron,’ said Vic Rayner NCF chief executive.

‘The adoption of a strategy by government that gives social care the crumbs from the table in an unrealistic hope that somehow it can continue to operate regardless of meaningful attention is negligent.

‘The NCF and our membership have been highlighting the growing shortages in the workforce and the knock-on impact on those who remain working in the sector and those who use care and support services for many months. How many times does this message need to be repeated for it to be heard?

‘The continual drip feed approach to funding, which as a result of bureaucracy fails to reach providers in a timely manner, is indicative of an approach that does not properly value the people who receive or deliver care.’

Those working on the frontline have described the situation ‘grim, difficult and relentless’, Rayner added.