13 Apr 2022
by The Homecare Association

The Daily Telegaph has reported leaked Government correspondence, "which has instructed social care services to do “everything you can” to get patients out of hospital even if that means spreading care more thinly among larger numbers."

Responding to the story, Homecare Association's CEO Dr Jane Townson said: 

"We fully understand the need for NHS hospitals to discharge people for whom acute care is no longer deemed necessary or appropriate. Prolonged stays in hospital when people are ready to go home increase risk of infection and deterioration in physical and mental health. Delayed discharges also mean that hospital beds are not available for new admissions, which contributes to ambulance waits, cancelled clinics and cancelled operations, making it difficult for the NHS to reduce the elective backlog. 

If the Government’s request of social care organisations to do “everything you can” to ease hospital discharges is accurate, then this is a gross underestimate of the situation that currently faces social care providers.  

Skills for Care data for March 2022 show that the vacancy rate in homecare is at a record high of 13%, compared with 9.1% in March 2021. An already challenging situation with recruitment and retention has been made worse by removal of the Infection Control and Testing Fund, which enabled employers to pay careworkers full pay whilst isolating due to COVID-19. Rapid spread of new variants of COVID-19 has left some services with staff absence rates of 30%. 

Many homecare workers are also struggling to afford fuel for their cars. According to government statistics, price of petrol in April 2021 was 125p per litre compared with 162p per litre in April 2022, a 30% increase. Price of diesel has increased by 36% over the last year (129p per litre in April 2021 vs 176p per litre in April 2022). All the government has offered is a 5p cut in fuel duty, which has little impact when costs have risen so dramatically. Careworkers are continuing to leave in droves as their pay, terms and conditions are poor and they are now also facing rapidly escalating household bills and fuel costs.  

Homecare providers continue to go above and beyond to support colleagues in the health and care system and ensure that those most at need are supported in the community wherever possible. Regrettably, though, after years of government under-investment in this essential service coupled with rapid inflation and the ongoing pressures of COVID-19, the homecare sector is in a weakened state. Providers have never been more stretched and they cannot magic careworkers out of the ether. 

We continue to call on the government to invest adequately in homecare and community support to take pressure off the NHS and reduce costs for the health and care system."


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