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26 May 2022

Nursing home staffing emergency will have consequences for health & social care

Nursing home staffing emergency will have consequences for health & social care

Nursing home residents and their loved ones will be able to enjoy a much-missed physical connection

There is requirement for urgent action from Government to address a staffing crisis presenting for nursing home care, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has warned.

An NHI survey has revealed a state of emergency is presenting for nursing homes with regard to the recruitment and retention of staff. The extent of the crisis means very real fears present regarding the capacity of the sector to facilitate admissions from the community and acute hospitals.

118 private and voluntary nursing homes participated in a year-end 2021 survey to assess the extent of the staffing crisis presenting for nursing home care. The survey findings equate to over 1,000 healthcare assistants and 300 nurses leaving the respondent nursing homes the year past. Replicated across the sector, this would equate to 4,000 healthcare assistants and 1,200 nurses.

The survey revealed: Almost ten healthcare assistant staff (9.4 average) left individual private and voluntary nursing homes the past year and almost three nurses departed (2.86).
Healthcare staff are leaving private and voluntary nursing homes for the HSE. The most common destination for healthcare assistant and nursing staff leaving was HSE hospitals, followed by HSE nursing homes.
An average 4.36 healthcare assistants left each individual private and voluntary nursing home for employment with the HSE the final six months of 2021; an average 2.15 nurses left.
An average 4.5 healthcare assistant roles are vacant per private and voluntary nursing home and it is 1.12 for general nurse roles.
80.6% of private and voluntary nursing homes report it is proving “extremely difficult” (35.6%) or “proving impossible” (45%) to hire healthcare assistant staff. For the recruitment of nurses, 33.9% report it is proving “extremely difficult” and 28% cite it “proving impossible”.

NHI has called upon Government to expedite the Covid19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel recommendation presented to Government in 2020 for a review of employment terms and conditions for nurses and healthcare assistants in nursing homes to be undertaken, with the organisation stating failure to act upon it is propelling a staffing crisis. Furthermore, the discrimination applied by the State, as highlighted by the recently published Department of Health A value for money review of nursing home care costs analysis, is resulting in significant discrimination in the funding applied to support healthcare roles.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “Our survey presents an disproportionate level of flux with regard to employment within the private and voluntary nursing home sector. Nursing homes are reporting to us staffing shortages are compromising their capacity to admit residents from the community or acute hospitals and this will exacerbate if the presenting emergency is not addressed. Private and voluntary nursing homes are reporting to us on a constant basis they are struggling to recruit and retain staff that are vital for people who require the specialised care provided by nursing homes. This is particularly prevalent for healthcare assistants, with State suppression of pay-rates and aggressive recruitment by the HSE leading to a crisis in recruiting and retaining such staff. There is requirement for the State to value the role fulfilled by healthcare assistants and nursing staff within all nursing homes.

“In August 2020, the Covid19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel recommended a review of employment terms and conditions of nurse and healthcare assistants in nursing homes be undertaken to ensure staff are available to provide care. This has not been progressed and failure to address is contributing to a crisis for nursing homes in retaining and recruiting staff.

“Staff salaries are ultimately driven by the State through the Fair Deal scheme. Yet blatant discrimination is occurring, with the State providing its own nursing homes with fees that are a national average 73% above those payable to private and voluntary counterparts. The State should follow the UK Government lead. It announced an additional £162.5m in funding to help recruit staff and avert the recruitment crisis presenting for its care home and home care providers. There is real need for our Government to recognises the immediacy of the staffing crisis presenting here, with the option presenting to ringfence funding specifically to enhance pay rates for staff. State intervention is required to support private and voluntary nursing homes to ensure staff are in place to meet the 24/7 clinical, health and social care needs of people requiring nursing home care.”   

NHI states on a more long-term basis, the State must bring stakeholders around the table to bring into effect a plan to attract and recognise staff required to meet the rapidly increasing gerontological care needs of our older population.

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