Why staff shortages in care homes and home care could easily be avoided

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In a recent news story, a shocking finding uncovered that a Sheffield-based home care company did not have enough staff to “to keep patients safe from avoidable harm and to provide care and treatment” and that the Care Quality Commission (CGC) investigation ruling came following a full inspection in February 2022. An initial warning was given back in July 2021which clearly stated that significant improvements were needed. Although the company in question have replied stating that they have taken on board all the recommendations from the report, and intend to address them, I am asking myself: why leave it until a damming report is published?

If this was a sudden issue, with no warning of a future personnel crisis, then I could easily forgive, but as we all know this national, and indeed global, staffing crisis is nothing new.

Even back in 2020 we were hearing horror stories about care home and home care staffing agencies struggling to provide trained staff to meet the shortfall.

As much as I am sympathetic to any recruitment officer’s predicament due to the fact that they are working tirelessly to control this situation at a time when the recruitment market has become increasingly restricted. Over a million EU-born workers have already left the UK.  Other issues including IR35, foreign workers rules, modern slavery, controlling costs, new COVID outbreaks and the need to demonstrate social value are making the task of recruitment even more complex.

It’s obvious from this and other recent recruitment nightmare stories that businesses now need to ask – are we planning ahead enough? Does our current staff provider have the most up to date technology to cope with my requirements? Are we using the correct model to help us to overcome these challenges? Or do we need a different, more innovative approach that breaks away from the way the recruitment industry has operated in the past?

My belief is that a Neutral Vendor model (a single point of contact for clients with no affiliation or interest in any one supplier) is now vital with an expansion of the preferred supplier list (PSL) essential. I realise that PSLs are currently the most common and best-understood option for temporary recruitment but the main problems with the PSLs is that they can be time-consuming, costly and difficult to manage with the added hassle of only having restricted access to temporary skills needed to cover new projects. Hiring managers usually fill gaps their PSLs can’t fulfil by going off-contract whether they have approval or not.

As I said, the best option for solving today’s recruitment challenges is to adopt a Neutral Vendor Managed Service Provider. I don’t say this lightly as I know that this approach gives access to a wider pool of agencies and temporary skills without having to go off-contract. It also solves compliance headaches, because Neutral Vendors provide proactive and transparent checks that most agencies don’t provide.

Obviously, one is not to know how the recruitment officer operates in this sector, and with what technology, but either way there is no doubt in my mind that a Neutral Vendor solution would give them greater access to a diverse supply chain of suppliers that delivers against social value requirements with guaranteed compliance checks before candidates start a project, which in turn, should help with the candidate vetting process.

What is also plainly obvious with this story is the crucial need for management information for predicting trends and recruitment needs, which would surely alleviate the pressure on healthcare management.

By adopting a Neutral Vendor approach employers would have access to a much larger pre-approved supply chain of recruitment agencies that would give them a complete overview of the market. Many of these agencies are SME local suppliers that meet social value requirements.

Ultimately, with this model you get much greater insight into the resourcing picture – so you can recruit temporary agency workers for the right cost, with guaranteed compliance, and with full visibility of the agency worker population.

I sincerely hope that I don’t keep reading stories like this otherwise I’m taking flight and moving to a country where patient care is taken more seriously!

Chris Grimes is the sales director of recruitment technology company, Matrix

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