New report reveals extent of Scotland’s nursing & care staff shortages

A new report by the Care Inspectorate last week revealed that more than a third of social care services across Scotland have reported unfilled staff vacancies in the past year.  For services providing care for older people, this figure was almost 60%.

Similarly around a quarter of those who offered nursing care reported having nurse vacancies. Again this was significantly higher for services providing care for older people, with up to 58% experiencing difficulty recruiting qualified nurses.

The reasons cited for these recruitment issues fall into three broad categories: too few applicants with experience, too few qualified applicants, and too few applicants in general.

Of course, these statistics are only part of the story. In the health and social care sector, it’s not just about the number of staff.  The skills, experiences and values of the people working in this field are equally important.

This makes the situation doubly challenging for organisations like Leuchie House who support people with highly complex care needs. Delivering our special service requires special people.  This means we’ll only recruit high quality staff who have what it takes to work in our specialised environment. 

So what’s the answer?

At an organisational-level, finding innovative and creative solutions to the problem is essential.

Over the past year at Leuchie we have been continually rethinking the way we deliver aspects of our service to maintain quality in light of these staffing constraints. For example, to make best use of nursing hours and develop our skills base, we’ve upskilled our senior care assistants, enabling them to expand their role and take on additional responsibilities. We’ve also increased administrative support for our nursing team, minimising the time needed to produce essential documentation.

With an ageing population and the ongoing rise in the number of people with long-term conditions, demand for health and social care services like that at Leuchie is only going to grow, and the shortage of suitable staff is only going to intensify.

At nationwide-level there is a need to invest in and promote caring roles as professions to aspire to. A strategic, pro-active response by policy-makers and planners to these new statistics is crucial.

Mairi O'Keefe, CEO, Leuchie House. Published in the East Lothian Courier, 26 October 2017.