Care homes in Leeds struggling to hold onto nursing staff

Recruitment of nurses in Leeds is not keeping pace with an “ageing society”, a Leeds City Council meeting has heard.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 5:54 pm

The comments were made at the authority’s care scrutiny board, where council officers heard how Leeds had problems recruiting and keeping nursing staff in care homes.

Coun Sandy Lay (Lib Dem), who works as a nurse, claimed that while patients have “more choice” than ever before, too much money had been put in an NHS “bottomless pit”.

Coun Lay said: “I have been a nurse for 25 years, and this is nothing new.

The ageing population needs more carers, it has been claimed.

“I have heard for 25 years there aren’t enough nurses. There are now more nurses and more doctors, more treatments and more choice for our communities than there have ever been. It is just not keeping pace with our ageing society.

“[There has been] a failure to recognise the importance of social care while we plough huge money into, if you speak to most NHS workers, a ‘bottomless pit’.”

His comments followed a report by Leeds City Council officers into Leeds’s care homes, which claimed the “quality and sustainability” of nursing was an issue both locally and nationally.

Coun Lay’s point was echoed by panel member Dr John Beal, who said: “The last time we were here, and the time before, we heard about the problem of recruiting registered nurses.

“I am sure you are doing all you can to recruit nurses, but I cannot believe this only applies to Leeds.

“This must be a national problem. Maybe this can be pursued to see what can be done with this problem. It’s no good for the people of Leeds to hear us saying that there is a recruitment problem – it needs solving.”

Caroline Baria, deputy director of commissioning at Leeds City Council and Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responded: “It isn’t an issue relating to Leeds – it is a national issue, and there is a national voice around this and a lot of work is happening at the national level to look at how we can improve numbers of people going into nursing and to stop the flow out of nursing.

“This is across the health and social care sector – it is not just about nurses in care homes, it’s about nursing per se.

“This is not a quick fix – I apologise but I have to say that I will keep coming back and saying we have difficulties around nursing because we don’t think we are going to be able to fix this immediately.

“In Leeds we are developing a whole set of different initiatives, working with universities and hospital trusts to see how we can encourage more nurses to remain in the profession.

“I apologise, but please don’t be surprised if we come back in the next quarter and say we still have problems recruiting nurses.”

The report from council officers states: “The quality and sustainability of nursing care remains both a local and national issue.

“A specific piece of work has been undertaken to focus on recruiting, retaining and supporting the nursing workforce in the nursing home sector. This has been done through the Leeds Health and Care Academy, making use of the strong partnership across the social care sector, the NHS and academic institutions in the city.

“Over the past months consultation has been undertaken with nurses themselves and nursing home providers to better understand the challenges and what might practically help.”

It added that work was being done to “enhance the profile of care home nurses”.

Ms Baria added: “Care workers are of very low status. The job is thankless and not rewarding. We want to know how we can change that to see how it can be better.

“People will feel more value in the work they do as care workers.”