Fears grow in care homes over PM's 'live with Covid' plan and staffing crisis

Video report by ITV Granada Reports correspondent Elaine Willcox

The staffing crisis in our care homes has been described as a 'desperate situation' by providers struggling to recruit staff.

Nursing homes are closing at an alarming rate - with some towns and cities seeing a 40 per cent drop in the number of care home beds in the last five years. 

Care workers say that as Covid restrictions come to an end - they feel they're being forgotten - all over again.

Staff and residents at Grovewood Residential Home in Birkenhead

Family members visiting relatives in care homes will not be given free Covid tests under the governments new plan of 'living with covid'.

It was confirmed the costs of the tests - which will no longer be free of charge from April 1 - will be a “matter for the private market”.

There is also concern that care staff who contract Covid will lose out financially. Providers are waiting for clarification for them, under the new rules statutory sick pay will no longer be paid for the first four days of the illness.

Grovewood Residential Home in Birkenhead relies on funding from the council and providers are calling on the government to review bed payments due to the rising cost of living.

The pandemic, low wages and burnt out of staff has all contributed to staff shortages.

Care Providers say they can't compete with the NHS where wages have increased, and with retail and delivery jobs where staff are paid more than carers.

At Grovewood, care workers receive Wirral's living wage of £9.90 an hour, but warehouse workers are being offered £14 an hour.

Ronnie Hopkins has been a carer for 30 years, but says the job is harder than ever and she worries that residents aren't receiving the care they deserve.

They have welcomed the return of visitors for residents but say staff will have to be even more vigilant to try to keep infection rates from rising, and that will be more difficult if free testing is scrapped.

"I fear that the residents will suffer because they are not getting the attention they should do, and that's what we are here for to look after them and I feel we are not able to do the job that we are meant to do and I want to do".

MD of Grovewood Shaquille Pabani calls on the government for a urgent review of funding

Shaquille Pabani, the Managing Director of Grovewood said, "it almost seems as if we've been forgotten about again".

He says he ended up in hospital for two weeks with a stress related illness and he's not alone.

"While the rest of the world is trying to return to normal, we are still on the frontline, in our group we are 20 percent down on staffing levels which is not sustainable  nor is it safe."

"It's one of those things where something needs to be done, we are receive rates set by the councils and government."

"We have providers who've taken their own lives during the pandemic, others whose health is suffering.

It is not an easy industry to be in at the moment. We are responsible for keeping some of the most vulnerable people in society safe and for our staff, it's not very easy to deal with when finances are so stretched."

Jodie Comer starring in "Help" which shone a light on care homes during the pandemic

"Help" a powerful drama starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham set in Liverpool and was shown on Channel 4.

Sonia Aldridge Manager, Grovewood says the programme showed how care home staff and residents felt abandoned in the pandemic and it resonated with staff.

Sonia Aldridge, manager of Grovewood who says the can't compete on wages to retain staff

"I thought it was amazing that they highlighted that, because nothing had been done like that and I thought I hope a lot of people watched that, and take on board how tough it's been in care homes for everyone."

In the Maple group of Care Homes they lost a quarter of their residents to covid and haven't had time to properly grieve.

Without more funding and increases in staff pay, providers warn the care won't be there, to look after those who need it.