Care home recruitment is now a ‘desperate struggle’

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CARE providers are facing a ‘desperate’ situation as they struggle to bring dozens of trained staff to Jersey due to red tape and the lack of suitable accommodation, the Island’s care federation has said.

Ongoing difficulties in bringing new staff to the Island have exacerbated problems at the General Hospital, which has seen unprecedented levels of ‘bed-blocking’ for this time of year, with too few carers to look after patients who are fit for discharge to their home or nursing homes.

Medical director Dr Patrick Armstrong outlined the situation in the JEP yesterday, saying it had led to the cancellation of operations and large increases in waiting times.

Cheryl Kenealy, chair of the Jersey Care Federation, said the situation had become ‘desperate’, with management at the Hospital imploring care providers to take on patients waiting to leave but being advised there was no further capacity. She added that her understanding was that the daily cost of keeping a patient in hospital when fit for discharge was around £500.

One care home manager, Sindy Gartshore at Silver Springs and La Haule homes, said it was the ‘toughest time’ in 20 years for recruiting staff.

Potential recruits who would be able to fill some of the vacancies have been identified, with interest from individuals in India, Barbados, South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, but bringing them to the Island has proved to be a major challenge.

Ms Kenealy said she was now in the process of setting up a crowd-funding initiative that would encourage Islanders to donate money to be used to cover the cost of bringing new recruits to the Island and getting them settled into employment.

She said: ‘We have 67 qualified applicants who are ready and willing to come here, but we don’t have the cost of 67 air fares, the visas, the other costs and the accommodation for them.

‘Getting licences has also been very difficult – operators have been asked for vast amounts of information and have to jump through every single hoop in order to qualify.’

The care federation has looked overseas after being disappointed at the lack of success of the Help at Home scheme, launched by the government as part of a £620,000 project to support the care sector through fiscal stimulus funds. Ms Kenealy said that the initiative had resulted in only 28 local recruits, well short of the target figure of 100, with a significant proportion of those who were recruited having left the industry within a few months.

Ms Kenealy added: ‘Very little of this [fiscal stimulus] money ended up being used, it just got handed back. We made a bid to get support in bringing staff to Jersey, but the Treasury Minister [Susie Pinel] said this wasn’t in her remit and wouldn’t be money well spent.’

Lee Madden, managing director of GR8 Recruitment, said accommodation remained the biggest obstacle to getting staff in place, with the loss of more than 400 beds in lodging houses that had previously been available.

‘We have to be able to sort out temporary accommodation for workers when they come here, if we could do that it would really take the pressure off,’ he said.

Other operators in the care sector have painted a similar picture of the challenges in bringing staff to the Island.

Mrs Gartshore said that there had previously been a pool of qualified carers on the Island, but now all operators were struggling to recruit.

She said: ‘It’s the toughest time I’ve known in 20 years – we are having to constantly check our rotas to check we’ll have enough staff for new admissions.’

Shaun Findlay, managing director of the Les Amis charity, which supports people with learning disabilities or associated conditions, said: ‘We are facing the same challenges and pressures on recruitment that other care providers currently face. Our sector is not alone, but we have the added complexity of working with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and that means our staff must develop and maintain their skills to meet those needs.’

The JEP has asked the Health Department for an update on the situation at the Hospital, following a meeting yesterday to discuss the ongoing difficulties in discharging patients.

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