Tim Jones MBA, owner of Kaizen Business Consultants and a highly experienced adviser to care home owners, leadership teams and staff, speaks to Dementia Help founder Christina Neal about the crisis facing the social care sector when the Covid vaccine becomes mandatory for care workers…

If there’s one sector where corners shouldn’t be cut, it’s social care, where vulnerable people need vital help and support.

I’ve seen first-hand the difference good care can make to someone unable to look after themselves. My late mum Hazel had vascular dementia and spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home. She required 24-hour care. Towards the end, she lost her mobility and needed help with every daily task you can think of – showering, dressing, brushing her hair and eating. She was as helpless as a baby, and it was incredibly sad to see, but I was so relieved she was getting the consistent care she badly needed.

Indeed, my mum was fortunate enough to be in a good nursing home. The staff genuinely cared about the residents. They worked extremely hard and showed true compassion. But there were occasions where there simply weren’t enough of them on duty, and I watched exhausted staff rushing around, stressed, doing their best but knowing deep down that it probably wasn’t enough.

Long term-staff shortages

There have been staff shortages in the care sector for a long time. Worryingly, things are about to get a whole lot worse. It’s safe to say that a crisis in the care sector is looming – and it’s coming soon. The government has stated that, from 11th November, those working in care homes in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless exempt, or risk losing their jobs. Care workers who don’t want the vaccine are expected to quit or managers will be forced to sack them, increasing the staff shortages in an already stretched industry. It is predicted that 70,000 care workers will quit, and the situation is predicted to be the biggest staffing crisis the care sector has ever seen.

The new legislation for vaccines will apply to all Care Quality Commission regulated service providers (i.e. home care agency staff as well as care home staff) and will extend to all agency workers, volunteers, and healthcare workers as well as tradespeople working at care homes.

Worrying pressures

Tim Jones is owner of Kaizen Business Consultants and a business growth expert and specialist adviser in the health and social care sectors. He regularly speaks to care home owners to help them grow and improve their businesses and is concerned about the pressures they and their staff will undoubtedly face. ‘What I’m hearing from care home owners and workers is that they’re very stressed,’ says Tim. ‘They’re very nervous. They’re literally burning out because of the pressure they’re under, and the hours they’re already having to work.’

If the sector is already under pressure, it’s clearly going to face massive challenges when the vaccine becomes mandatory. ‘Businesses will need to have a big recruitment drive because of the shortage,’ says Tim. ‘It’s going to be the worst it’s ever been.’

So are the current staff shortages because prospective employees know what’s coming in the care sector, or because the job is already so challenging? ‘I’d say it’s a bit of both,’ says Tim. ‘A recent survey suggested up to 40 per cent of care home operators or care providers were willing to throw in the towel and just close. Either close the door or sell the business because of the pressure and uncertainty.’

Ongoing recruitment

It’s not uncommon to see care homes advertising for staff. In fact, it’s almost unusual not to see large banners outside their buildings declaring: ‘We’re hiring’. Recruitment in the care sector is an ongoing task. Tim adds: ‘There’s always been a huge focus on recruiting additional carers, but this comes at a huge time and financial cost to the care providers. There has to be a real structure and process in place for it to fundamentally work. Recruitment drives must attract the right type of people into the industry, and it’s a huge challenge. It’s always been a challenge but it’s getting critical now.’

Tim is concerned about the quality of care people will receive when existing staff decide to quit the sector. Providing good care is about much more than getting residents washed and dressed. Personal qualities like empathy and patience go a long way. Approximately 70 per cent of people living in care homes has a form of dementia. This means there are many residents susceptible to challenging symptoms of the condition, including mood swings, confusion, and even occasional violence. This in turn can present numerous challenges for care workers.

It takes a special kind of person to deal with the unpredictable nature of dementia, and those entering the social care sector from November may not necessarily have the personal qualities needed to do the job well.

Not the right reasons

‘It’s a risk that people could be going into the role just because it’s a pay cheque and aren’t doing it for the right reasons,’ says Tim. ‘The care provider is going to have to whittle those people out and there’s a risk that standards will be lowered. The ultimate point here is that residents are in care homes for one reason and one reason only – to be cared for and supported in their later years with high integrity and choice. A lot of that is at risk at the moment.’

Tim predicts that a further ten per cent of care workers will leave the industry when the vaccine becomes compulsory, with some staff viewing it as an invasion of their human rights. ‘Care workers who leave will end up working in another industry with less pressure, less responsibility, with a similar sort of pay,’ he adds. ‘The residents have got care needs, they’ve got medical needs, they’ve got emotional needs that must be met in a safe manner. Safety is a key issue here because the team members will be asked to do even more. The pressure will be on them.’

Unfortunately, the situation will become more difficult due to our increased longevity. As a nation, we’re living longer. ‘It’s such a difficult and challenging time,’ says Tim. ‘A balance needs to be found and until then, the pressure is critical. There are 700,000 care workers right now in the UK, and 18,000 nursing and care homes that are supporting just shy of half a million residents. So we are talking about a lot of people with a lot of needs and that is an ageing demographic that isn’t going to go away. The demand for services is outstripping supply and will continue to do so.’

More Information

Tim Jones MBA is an award-winning specialist business advisor to the Adult Social Care sector who supports the owners and managers of Homecare providers, care homes, nursing homes and Supported Living services across the UK. Tim is also a Commercial Member of the UKHCA. For more information, please contact Tim on tim@kaizenbusiness.uk, 07588 321898, via kaizenbusiness.co or at https://www.linkedin.com/in/timjones-support/