Residents of care homes 'dying alone amid dangerously low staffing levels'

Nursing home residents die alone and their daily needs are “neglected” due to “dangerously low” staffing levels, according to a new study by Unison.

The people in nursing homes are therefore denied a dignified end to their lives because there are not enough staff to sit with them for the last few hours, according to the survey.

The union found that nearly a third (31%) of nurses said the workforce was dangerously low, deteriorating and negatively affecting the quality of care, making carers “exhausted, angry and upset”.

Around two-thirds (67%), meanwhile, are considering leaving the sector in what Unison described as a “disastrous but inevitable” consequence of years of low wages and morals and underfunding.

As part of the study, Unison interviewed 1,637 employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who work in nursing homes or help people at home or in assisted living.

Respondents reported that people are not washed regularly, some don’t get dressed until the afternoon, while others are put to bed early so staff can look after other residents.

They described care as “depressingly rushed” and said the quality is declining, with “insecure” staffing on both day and night shifts.

One respondent said: “The dying do not die with dignity because there are not enough staff to sit with the people in their final hours.

“Residents are neglected, do not bathe, eat too late and the staff is exhausted.”

Another added: “Care levels are falling because there aren’t enough caregivers to do the job. People are left in wet, dirty beds.”

Suzanne, a 40-year-old home nurse, described the workforce as “dangerously low” at times and the care “well below acceptable standards”.

“I had to leave the residents in tears because I had to take care of someone who also needed me,” she said.

Almost all respondents (97%) indicated that their employer suffers from a staff shortage, with burnout, overwork and low pay being the main reasons.

47% agreed that shortages had a negative impact on care, and 31% agreed that staff numbers are also dangerously low and deteriorating.

One in five (20%) said that their job was okay despite the shortage, while only 1% said that their job was fine and that there were no serious staff shortages.

Unison Secretary-General Christina McAnea said a government-announced pay increase would bring “early festive cheers” to caregivers and convince many to stay.

“Nurses are leaving in droves – burned out from the pandemic, exhausted from covering the understaffed and fed up with low wages,” she said.

“This is a nightmare for families worried about caring for loved ones, overworked employees struggling to cope, and employers concerned about not having the staff to stay open.

“The care sector has a desperate labor shortage and can’t wait to wait months for the government to find a solution.”

Earlier this month, the government launched a recruiting campaign to fill more than 100,000 social vacancies.

It has also set up a £ 162.5 million staffing fund to help vendors recruit and retain employees through March 2022.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said the Unison survey was “very difficult to read” as employees do an “incredible job” in increasing pressures.

“It is not good enough that the government continues to ignore this very real crisis,” she said.

“Last month, Unison and the NCF launched a joint appeal to the government calling for an immediate loyalty bonus and a raise.

“By ignoring this call and refusing to take action, you are exposing the very real risks to people and communities.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare said: “Everyone deserves high quality and compassionate care, and we are grateful for the dedication and tireless work of the welfare staff during the pandemic.”

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