Staff crisis and rising costs could see care homes ‘go to the wall’

The care sector has been 'hard hit by the different waves of the pandemic'.

Staff crisis and rising costs could see care homes ‘go to the wall’ PA Media
Care: MSPs told homes are facing a recruitment crisis.

More care homes in Scotland will go to the wall this winter, the industry has warned as it told MSPs the sector is “haemorrhaging” and also facing rocketing insurance bills.

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee of the ongoing issues linked to the pandemic.

The care sector has been “particularly hard hit by the different waves of the pandemic”, he said, warning of “very real, immediate challenges”.

He said social care is currently facing the “biggest workforce crisis the sector has ever experienced”, and this is “having a profound effect on the stability and the sustainability of the sector”.

He said few people left the sector in the first wave of the pandemic, but homes are now “haemorrhaging experienced, skilled staff, nurses and carers who are going elsewhere”.

Nine out of ten care organisations in Scottish Care are struggling to recruit new workers, he added, telling the committee: “People who are called to interview, 40% aren’t turning up. People who are appointed, 60% leave in the first six months.”

He spoke about the impact of investigations into Covid deaths in care homes, saying morale amongst staff is “through the floor” and claiming the inquiry by the Crown Office is forcing more people out of the sector.

Mr Macaskill stated: “We all want answers to the loss of lives, but the victimisation, the disproportionate use of power by the Crown Office is shameful and it shames our nation, so we have to draw a line under it.

“We’re still having people who 20 months after initial interview and evidence-gathering for people in care homes, still don’t know what’s going to happen with that information.

“So our care sector, our care workforce in the community and in care homes, is feeling hugely demoralised, physically and emotionally.”

He also raised fears about the economic sustainability of the sector, saying it is now a “real concern”.

Much of the care provided in Scotland comes from small, independent organisations, and Mr Macaskill said: “If we see more of them going to the wall as we will this winter, then that raises profound questions about sustainability.”

Insurance premiums for some care firms have risen so much that they can be ten times higher than they were two years ago, he told the committee.

He said: “Two years ago in 2019, average payments were about £3000 to £5000, last year that rose to £17,000. This year for the same coverage providers are being charged £30,000 by insurance companies.

“That makes a small, family-run business virtually impossible to sustain.”

This comes at the same time as there are “real challenges with energy costs increases”, he said.

Meanwhile, he said that while Covid measures such as vaccination and the use of face coverings are helping keep people safe, they are “certainly not addressing those significant issues”.