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‘We need people’ - Care home boss urges government to solve staff shortages

PUBLISHED: 18:42 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:42 17 September 2020

Raj Sehgal, owner and managing director of ArmsCare. Picture: Docking House

Raj Sehgal, owner and managing director of ArmsCare. Picture: Docking House

Docking House

The £546m investment into care homes to stop the spread of Covid-19 could go down a “black hole” if the government does not fill staff shortages, the head of a Norfolk care home has said.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

It comes as care providers in England prepare to receive more than half a billion pounds extra funding for the winter, which health secretary Matt Hancock said would bring “peace of mind” to the sector.

The Infection Control Fund was started by the government to pay staff full wages when they are self-isolating and ensure carers work in only one care home, reducing the risk of spreading the infection.

Raj Sehgal, managing director of Norfolk care home provider, ArmsCare, warned the announcement was “pandering to the public ear” and would be wasted if the government did not solve staff shortages.

He said: “Throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution. Money is welcome as funds are always short and money can be spent, it can disappear down a big black hole and administration and bureaucracy, what we need is a solution - what we need is people.

Latest figures show coronavirus cases rising in all Norfolk and Waveney local authority areas, except Great Yarmouth. Picture: Getty ImagesLatest figures show coronavirus cases rising in all Norfolk and Waveney local authority areas, except Great Yarmouth. Picture: Getty Images

“What we need is the ability to be able to recruit staff. If we cannot get them locally, we will need to recruit them nationally, internationally.”

“That door is closed to us,” he added, referring to a decision to not include care workers as skilled workers under post-Brexit immigration plans.

He said the cost of agency staff was a huge hit to finances, with costs around £25 an hour, compared to around £9 an hour for a paid member of staff.

The government fund also does not enable homes to buy personal protective equipment.

Prior to the pandemic the home’s PPE costs worked out £1,000 for each home. The cost rose tenfold to £40,000 as of April.

The homes, which are in the King’s Lynn area, went into lockdown in February and have begun offering appointments to visitors – but can only accommodate two visits a day due to cleaning restrictions.

Ahead of winter, he said the home was as prepared as possible to handle a second wave.

Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care Bill Borrett said he was glad the government was focusing on the care sector.

He said: “That said this is only one part of the work that needs to be done to prepare our care homes for the coming months, and we have been working hard in Norfolk to make sure our care homes have the support they need as cases begin to rise nationally.”


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