Widespread care staff shortages in Scotland, report finds

Nurse taking care of an old woman

Over half of care homes north of the border are struggling to recruit workers, according to a joint report by the Care Inspectorate and the Scottish Social Services Council.

As of the end of December 2017, 59% of care homes for adults had the largest proportion of services reporting vacancies – particularly for nurses – while 62% of homecare operations were struggling to recruit.

Asked why posts have been hard to fill, most services said applicants did not have enough experience, and 57% said there were too few applications.

Domiciliary services saw staff shortages grow by four percentage points between 2016 and 2017, while older people’s care homes saw a small reduction of one percentage point for the same period.

At 31 December 2017 there were almost 8,000 registered services (excluding childminders) providing care and support for children, young people, adults and older people across Scotland. They employed an estimated 179,150 workers.

Around 40% (70,900 employees) worked in homecare or housing support services; 30% (52,470 workers) were employed in care homes for adults and older people and a further 19% (34,020 staff) in daycare of children services.

North Lanarkshire had the most services (49%) with employee shortages of all Scottish local authority areas, followed by 47% of care operators in Aberdeenshire.

But Angus and Highland had a ‘significantly’ lower proportion of services with vacancies than the national average, according to Staff vacancies in care services 2017.

The rate of ‘whole-time equivalent’ vacancies in 2017 was up at 5.9% from 5.5% the year before, the research revealed.

Gordon Weir, Care Inspectorate interim chief executive, said: ‘The Care Inspectorate recognises that 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.’

Scottish Care’s chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said: ‘We recognise a significant percentage of care homes closed last year because they can’t recruit staff. We anticipate even more doing so, not least because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. 

‘The reality is that care homes remain essential components of our health and care landscape but we are losing them. Without them, hospitals and community supports would face unprecedented and impossible demand, so we need to stem the flow of both staff and services exiting the sector as a matter of urgency.’

He called for an ‘urgent cross-sector focus’ on recruitment and retention.

These [care] roles and services are essential to the success of the whole health and social care system in Scotland,’ Macaskill said. ‘Yet people are doing highly skilled jobs for poor remuneration because they are not sufficiently valued and recognised for doing so.’