Vulnerable nursing home residents are left in urine-soaked sheets

Vulnerable nursing home residents have been forced to spend hours in urine-soaked beds due to a crippling staff shortage, the UK’s largest union has warned.

UNISON said it has received a number of reports from its members that even the most vulnerable residents are being deprived of basic hygiene and care.

It warned residents were missing regular baths, being rushed through meals and in some cases even being left to die without anyone’s hand to hold.

UNISON said it had received similar reports across the UK, warning that families were dealing with a ‘nightmare’ situation where loved ones are left without proper care.

It’s not clear how many of the UK’s 18,000 homes are in crisis, but unions have warned that a shortage of staff will close ‘hundreds’.

Nursing homes have long been in crisis with some 100,000 open job openings heading into the pandemic.

But the government was accused this month of causing chaos by requiring all workers to be vaccinated against Covid – which left up to 60,000 people out of work.

The UNISON survey published today found that about two-thirds of workers are considering leaving the profession because of burnout and low pay.

Nursing home residents are left in urine-soaked sheets and with no one's hand to hold in their final hours due to staff shortages (stock image)

Nursing home residents are left in urine-soaked sheets and with no one’s hand to hold in their final hours due to staff shortages (stock image)

Above are the most recent figures for the proportion of nursing home staff who received a first and second dose of the vaccine.  The government was accused of exacerbating the sector's workforce crisis by mandating jabs

Above are the most recent figures for the proportion of nursing home staff who received a first and second dose of the vaccine.  The government was accused of exacerbating the sector's workforce crisis by mandating jabs

Above are the most recent figures for the proportion of nursing home staff who received a first and second dose of the vaccine. The government was accused of exacerbating the sector’s workforce crisis by mandating jabs

Nurse Pat, not her real name, said the staff are “doing everything” but there are not enough left to provide the right care.

The 21-year-old said: ‘Often the only option is to change the clothes of someone who has soiled their bed without washing them.

‘There is also hardly any time to wash the residents’ hair, so it is not done as often as it should.

Two-thirds of healthcare workers are looking for other work, union survey warns

About two-thirds of care home workers are looking for other work, the UK’s largest union warned.

UNISON surveyed some 1,600 health care providers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to get a picture of the situation in the sector.

But they found that 67 percent of staff said they were considering quitting their jobs.

The main drivers for this were burnout and stress (30 percent), better wages elsewhere (29 percent) and mandatory vaccination (14 percent).

Half of those who took part in the survey (47 percent) said staffing levels were also too low in homes, putting residents at risk.

UNISON Secretary General Christina McAnea said families were facing a “nightmare” situation.

“The healthcare sector has a dire labor shortage and cannot wait months for the government to come up with a solution,” she said.

Ministers should give a festive cheer to all healthcare workers early on and announce a general wage increase.

“This would persuade many who are on the brink of quitting to stay and encourage more people to think seriously about working in social care.”

“I recently had to choose between sitting and holding a dying resident’s hand until their family arrived or someone went to clean up.”

And 40-year-old health care provider Suzanne, also not her real name, echoed her colleague who warned that staffing levels are now “dangerously low.”

She said: ‘We often care for more residents than we should, so we can’t provide quality basic care.

“I had to leave residents in tears because I had to take care of someone else who also needed me.

‘A few colleagues have been lost to the vaccination deadline and nearly half of the workforce is ill due to stress or illness.

“I got a pay cut to get into healthcare — I love the job, but it takes its toll on me.”

Another worker added: ‘People don’t get regular baths or showers, just a wash. There is no time to do the job right.

“Some don’t dress until 2 p.m., and assisted feeding is rushed.

“The staff are exhausted, angry and upset because they know they just don’t have the time to do everything they should.”

Other workers said there is “not enough staff per shift,” forcing residents to bed early to free up people for other jobs.

Unions had warned that thousands of homes would be plunged into crisis over the ‘no jab, no job’ policy introduced this month that would force many to close.

They said it could be the final nail in the coffin for many workers before moving into retail and grocery stores.

UNISON’s survey, published today, asked 1,600 workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland about the sector.

About 47 percent believe that staff shortages have a negative effect on the sector.

And 31 percent said staffing levels were dangerously low and negatively impacted care delivered.

By comparison, about 20 percent said there were some shortages, but their workplace was good.

Of the two-thirds who said they would leave the industry, burnout and stress (30 percent), followed by poor wages (29 percent) and mandatory vaccination (14 percent) were the main cause.

Christina McAnea, general secretary of UNISON, said health workers were leaving the sector “in droves” because after the pandemic they were exhausted from covering understaffed services and fed up with low wages.

She said: ‘The healthcare sector has a dire shortage of workers and cannot wait months for the government to come up with a solution.

Ministers should give a festive cheer to all healthcare workers early on and announce a general wage increase.

“This would persuade many who are on the brink of quitting to stay and encourage more people to think seriously about working in social care.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said: “Everyone deserves high quality and compassionate care, and we are grateful for the dedication and tireless work of social care workers during the pandemic.

Nursing homes and home care providers are now benefiting from the new £162.5m Staff Retention and Recruitment Fund to alleviate staff pressure.

“In addition, the government will invest at least £500million to develop and support the health workforce as part of our £5.4bn to reform social care.”

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