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HSC boss: Care cuts show "why we are pushing for more staff housing"

HSC boss: Care cuts show

Wednesday 09 November 2022

HSC boss: Care cuts show "why we are pushing for more staff housing"

Wednesday 09 November 2022


The adult community care service is suffering from vacancies in more than one in three posts.

The Committee for Health & Social Care says its carers are "exhausted" trying to cope with increases in demand and more complex needs among the island’s ageing population while their team is short of up to 30 staff to fill around 20 full-time equivalent posts.

Express reported on Monday that dozens of adults who currently receive health and care support in their own home now face cuts in services. Community care will be reduced for 55 individuals and withdrawn completely from seven people. This works out at a cut in the service of around 25%.

Domiciliary care is only one of several areas of health and care under severe pressure from staff shortages. The Committee told Express there are currently nearly 400 vacancies for largely frontline staff.

"This is why we are pushing so much for more staff accommodation," said the Committee’s President, Deputy Al Brouard.

"As a Committee, we raised this issue at our very early meetings – two years and 19 days later, we still haven't got a spade in the ground, but we've still got the problem and it's getting worse and worse."

Deputy Brouard, pictured top, insisted that "some of the solutions" are in the States' "own hands". "If, tomorrow, we had 150 units of staff accommodation on or close to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital site, that would go a long way to assisting our recruitment team getting over the staff we need – agency staff or, even better, permanent staff," he said.

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Pictured: The Committee for Health & Social Care recently fought off an attempt by some States' members to block work into the possible development of staff accommodation on a green field at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. Deputy Al Brouard, the Committee's President, told the States they needed to decide if they "want[ed] to put cows to intermittently graze the field ahead of people who need to care for our loved ones".

The Committee is writing this week to all patients currently receiving adult community care – most to be reassured that their care package will continue. But some patients with less complex care needs are receiving telephone calls to be told their care package will be reduced or withdrawn.

The Committee hosted an open meeting with the island's media in an effort to be transparent about the reasons for its decision and its sadness at having to cut services.

"It's disappointing we've reached the position we have, but we have to do the best we can with the resources we have available," said Deputy Brouard.

"Nobody wants to be in this position. We have the funding we need – we just can't get the staff. If circumstances were different, we would be continuing to provide this care. In these circumstances, we need to prioritise care to the people who need it most. It's not ideal. We'd far rather not be in this position, but it's where we are."

Deputy Brouard said that patients who feel they would be left at risk by their care being reduced or withdrawn could ask the Committee’s officials to look again at their case.

"If anyone feels that it is unjust or that they would really struggle, there is an opportunity to come back to us and we will reassess. That opportunity is always there," he said.

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Pictured: The Committee for Health & Social Care is battling against staff shortages across many of its services.

Dermot Mullin, the Committee's Director of Operations, told Express that adults in greatest need of community care would see no change in services.

"Those who are the most vulnerable or who have the highest level of care needs will still be receiving their care package. This is about trying to take some pressure out of the system," said Mr Mullin.

"It's not something we want to be doing…[but] the labour market has become more and more competitive. Agency staff costs are the highest that we have ever known. We have a diminishing pool with increases in the price of agency workers and new staff."

Karen Leach, the Committee's Associate Director of adult community care services, called staff providing domiciliary support "the bedrock of our care services – the worker bees who drive around the island providing care to those who need it…but they are exhausted".

Ms Leach made a plea for more staff. "There are jobs in nursing sectors for anyone who is interested. Please get in touch with us about nursing vacancies."

She stressed that Guernsey is not alone battling health and care staff shortages – a problem made worse by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

Karen_Leach_care_services.jpg

Pictured: Karen Leach, Associate Director of adult community care for the Committee for Health & Social Care, paid tribute to adult community care staff who are working under considerable pressure due to increased demand and a high number of vacancies in their teams.

The challenges facing domiciliary care teams are made greater by lack of supply of beds in the island’s largely private care homes.

Around 40 beds have been lost over the past four to five years.

One effect of this is 'bed blocking' at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital – where patients are medically fit to be discharged but have to stay in hospital longer than needed and through no fault of their own because there are no beds for them in care homes.

The number of patients in these circumstances varies weekly. Mr Mullin said that early this week there were around 23 in beds at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.

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