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  1. ITV Report

Shortage of Cornish social care workers putting 'serious' pressure on NHS

Hospitals in Cornwall say they are under pressure due to a shortage of social care workers.

There are around 1,000 unfilled vacancies across the care sector in the county, which means those who could be receiving care at home are instead staying in hospital for longer.

Councillor Rob Rotchell, Head of Adult Social Care for Cornwall, warned that there is an acute lack of care workers and specialist dementia carers across the county.

He added if more domiciliary care packages are not taken on by providers, fewer hospital beds will be available, increasing pressure on places like the Royal Cornwall.

1,000
number of unfilled vacancies across Cornwall's care sector

A lack of care workers also has, "a knock on effect right the way through the system and its quite serious," Rob added.

Lesley Saunders looked after Peggy, her 93 year old mother who has dementia, in the family home in Stithians, six miles from Falmouth.

After a spell of pneumonia, Peggy's dementia became worse and she required professional help.

Lesley says she felt guilty about leaving her mum in hospital. Credit: ITV News

Cornwall's Adult Social Care team designed a package which would see Peggy receive four visits at home a day. However, no care provider bid for the package since they felt that Peggy lived too far away.

Lesley was left with no choice but to keep her mother in hospital until a nursing home could be found. This meant Peggy spent two extra months at Falmouth Hospital.

Although Peggy is now being cared for in a nursing home, Lesley still feels "very guilty."

This is mum's home, I know she'd still like to go home. She says, "now I'd like to go home," and I have to say to her that when there's a suitable place for us all to live together, we will [and] she can come home.

When someone's got dementia you can't really argue with them.

– Lesley Saunders

Cornwall Care, a provider that has 16 care homes, emphasised that social care workers are shoring up a system under strain.

Look at the numbers and the work force and Cornwall Care alone has got more beds than the NHS in Cornwall and there are lots of other providers.

If that workforce wasn't there and the work that we're doing wasn't there, then the system would collapse. The hospital would not be able to cope [and] planned operations would have to be cancelled.

– Cornwall Care

Although Peggy is receiving care, she remains away from the home that she has lived in for 60 years.

Peggy now receives social care, but away from her home of 60 years. Credit: ITV News

Meanwhile, Cllr Rob Rotchell insists that Cornish hospitals will be continue to be put under strain until there is an adequate number of carers in the county.