Care home sector warns of intolerable nursing shortages, with 31% of posts vacant

Today (9 November 2017), Scottish Care has published a new report on the picture of nursing in the independent social care sector.

The report, entitled Independent Sector Nursing Data 2017, depicts both the highlights and challenges of nursing in care homes in Scotland and illustrates the nurse recruitment and retention crisis currently being faced.

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said nearly a third of nursing posts are currently vacant, forcing care home operators to increasingly rely on agencies to fill their nursing rotas at an average cost of £434-per-shift although some agencies can charge up to £1000-per-shift.

“Last year we reported that we were facing significant challenge in relation to the shortage of nurses working in our care homes.  Despite strenuous efforts matters have got even worse in 2017 and we are now at the stage of many care homes being placed at real risk in terms of their survival. Paying exorbitant agency fees to plug a continuing gap is wholly unsustainable. Urgent short-term measures are needed, and require us to work with Scottish Government and other partners, to find solutions to this challenge.”

The biggest problem identified in the report is an insufficient supply of nurses.

Dr Macaskill said: “This raises questions about whether current student nurse intake levels are sufficient.”

He added: “The report also found that there has been a huge increase in turnover – standing at 46% in the last year compared to 29% the year before. Coupled with the already negative impacts of Brexit there are growing pressures on our abilities to staff nursing posts now and into the future. Unless we are to be faced with more and more people stuck in hospital we need to seriously invest in nursing provision in Scotland’s care home sector.”

Dr Macaskill continued:

“We’re facing an immediate challenge in relation to the shortage of nurses working in our care homes.  Whilst the general shortage of nurses is a serious issue, we also need to look at why many people, nurses and other professions, are not choosing to work in care homes.  We need to attract more people to work in the social care sector and articulate the many benefits of doing so.  These measures require us to work with Scottish Government and other partners, including colleges, universities and health and social care partnerships to urgently address these issues.

“We need to work with a range of people and organisations to make social care an attractive career path, and also to make sure people understand what brilliant places care homes can be to live and work in.  We need to stop talking down care homes and start celebrating them.”




Notes to Editors:

Independent Sector Nursing Data 2017 is based on survey data from 91 care organisations, representing 317 individual services and approximately 2,400 nurses from the sector.  It provides some headline facts and figures about the sector in relation to the recruitment and retention of nurses.

  • A 44% increase in number of nurses registered with nurse agencies in 2014-2016
  • 64% of nurses in care homes are over the age of 45
  • Average vacancy levels across sector 31% (28% in 2016)
  • 91% of providers are finding it hard to fill nursing posts compared to 68% in 2015.
  • 54% of providers think it is harder this year than last year
  • Turnover of nursing staff is now 43% compared to 29% in 2016.
  • Average cost of agency nurse for a shift is £434 (in 2016 was £343)
  • 46% of providers have increased their use of agency staff in the last three months

Scottish Care is a membership organisation and the representative body for independent social care services in Scotland.

Scottish Care represents over 400 organisations, which totals almost 1000 individual services, delivering residential care, nursing care, day care, care at home and housing support services.

Our membership covers both private and voluntary sector provider organisations.  It includes organisations of varying types and sizes, amongst them single providers, small and medium sized groups, national providers and not-for-profit voluntary organisations and associations.

Our members deliver a wide range of registered services for older people as well as those with long term conditions, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, dementia or mental health problems.

The Scottish independent social care sector contributes to:

  • The employment of approximately 100,000 people
  • The employment of 5,000 nurses
  • The provision of 89% of care home places in Scotland

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