Vulnerable people are being left in their beds due to a staff shortage that is forcing caregivers to prioritize basic life and limb care, social welfare chiefs have warned.
More than half of councilors who responded to a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) have been forced to take “extraordinary measures” to ration care as Omicron exacerbates existing shortages.
This includes caregivers helping someone eat or drink rather than helping another client get up or engage in other activities, or leaving people with dementia, learning disabilities, or poor mental health in isolation or longer alone.
Adass President Stephen Chandler said these were “extremely difficult” decisions “that nobody wants to make”.
Last week he told the PA news agency the bottlenecks mean some of the most vulnerable in society are experiencing “lockdown by a different name” as they cannot be supported to live their lives fully.
He said: “These are decisions no one wants to make and many are unacceptable. These are drastic measures and must not become the norm.
“The roots of this lie in the failure over the past decade to provide sustainable funding for adult social care and to adequately recognize and reward the dedicated, courageous and compassionate people who work in it.
“Repeatedly, opportunities have been missed to ensure adult welfare is resilient enough to withstand Omicron’s challenges. Any money provided was welcome, but too little and too late.”
The Government said it was doing “everything we can” to support nursing staff through additional funding, a campaign to improve recruitment and retention and by expanding the visa system for health and nursing workers.
Adass surveyed its members about the emergency response they are taking in response to concerns about staffing levels, winter pressures, and the rapid spread of Omicron.
The survey ran between Christmas Eve and January 5th and was answered by 94 of England’s 152 social services councillors.
They found they took whatever action they felt was essential if not desirable, such as transferring library staff to maintenance roles.
And 49 have had to intermittently take action in some parts of their communities that was deemed “least acceptable”.
About 43% of councils said they prioritize support only for those most at risk and only for essential activities, while 13% said they only provide “living and personal hygiene” – people eating, drinking, using the toilet and help with changing the continence linen – at least part of the time.
About one in ten (11%) said they leave people with dementia, learning disabilities, or mental illness alone for long periods of time.
The pressure means a third of councilors have to rely on unpaid caregivers for more support.
Respondents also highlighted common concerns that they wished to escalate to government.
These include short-term solutions that do not solve long-term problems, e.g. B. related to staff pay and development, lack of access to enough therapists and physical therapists to support reintegration into the community, and concern for a “tired and stressed” workforce.
Adass concluded: “To sum up, the need for these measures underscores the fact that these are unprecedented times. None of the actions outlined are ideal or desirable, and this evidence demonstrates why we are calling the current situation a national adult social welfare emergency.”
A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “Nurses work incredibly hard and we are doing everything we can to support them, including with a £462.5million recruitment fund, the expansion of the Health and Care (workers ) and our “Made with Care” recruitment campaign.
“Over the course of the pandemic we have committed more than £2.9billion in dedicated funding to adult social care.
“More than 50 million PCR and 142 million LFD kits have been delivered to care homes and we have invested a further £478 million to support safe and timely hospital discharges and get patients to the best place for their care and support can be continued.”