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Care providers warn of staff exodus in 18 months’ time

Care home providers have warned of a staff exodus in 18 months’ time.

Responding to a new survey which reports average staff vacancy rates of 8 per cent, Brian James, operations manager at Keychange Charity, said: “Senior people are thinking ‘Can I face another winter?’ If we don’t work harder to retain people – when the retail and hospitality sectors pick up – people will move away from social care. We can’t afford for [vacancy rates] to drop any further.”

In a snap survey of National Care Forum members conducted during January 2021, providers said that vacancy rates have risen from 5 per cent in October 2020. Some care providers cite vacancy rates of over 20 per cent.

Financial concerns top providers’ list of worries during this time: 87 per cent of respondents said they have seen an increase in operating costs due to COVID-19, while 75 per cent reported a decrease in income. Falling occupancy is a key reason for declining income with average occupancy now at 79 per cent – down from 84 per cent in October and levels of around 90 per cent seen in January 2019.

Some 95 per cent of respondents expect that COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on their financial position for the rest of 2021.  Around three in ten respondents (28 per cent) said they had not yet been offered any fee rate increase and of the 39 per cent that had, just under half of them had had an offer of an increase of less than 2.2 per cent – this is well below the increase in the national living wage.

The survey, which was completed by NCF members operating 1,180 care and support services throughout England during January, also looked at staff vaccination and visiting in care homes:

Vaccination: 59 per cent of staff in care homes had been vaccinated. Ethnicity and concerns about pregnancy have been cited as reasons for non-vaccination by staff. Providers have called on local GPs and nurses to support staff vaccination through education and encouragement.

Visiting: 61 per cent of respondents have been able to continue some form of visiting.

NCF chief executive Vic Rayner said: “Providers have worked incredibly hard. This is a moment where nearly a year into the pandemic, we pull out all the stops.”   

Documents available online include:
NCF survey full slide presentation  

Survey press conference recording     

  • Care home staff can now book COVID vaccinations online at, or by calling 119 free of charge, until 28 February. Further information is available in a letter.


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