Care workers 'exhausted' by staff shortage

Care workers 'exhausted' by staff shortage
From BBC - November 27, 2017

A care worker in Northern Ireland has said she feels like a "workhorse" because a shortage of staff means she often has to work 80 hours a week.

Her comments follow a BBC investigation into the current state of social care.

It reveals that on one day this month, 88 people had to stay in hospital unnecessarily, due to a wait for a suitable home care package.

The Department of Health said care demand has risen "considerably" and it is reviewing its domiciliary workforce.

'Snapshot of situation'

The BBC's investigation also revealed that the longest wait for a patient for home care provision was 11 months.

However, the Southern Health Trust stressed that this was a highly unusual case where the patient required a specialist care package.

The second longest wait was in the Belfast Health Trust where a patient waited 104 days.

The average waiting time for a care package for people across the five health trusts during a three-month period ranges between three and 26 days.

These figures give a snapshot into Northern Ireland's adult social care system on just one day in the middle of November.


The home help worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the BBC that 37 house calls in 17 hours is not unusual.

"I feel like a workhorse at times," the interviewee said.

"You are physically and mentally exhausted because you are just working big hours all the time and even when you have given your last wee bit - they are still expecting you to go out and do a wee bit more - but that is not recognised."

Domiciliary care is provided when a person who is living at home requires help with personal care, including practical household tasks.

It can involve helping the person wash, eat and take their medication.

A different care worker said that it was not unusual to work through a shift without taking any breaks for food or even to use the toilet.

"I was at work 17 hours and had seen 35 people - it was terrible," the woman said.

"The company was short staffed, the clients were back-to-back, I was constantly travelling between clients.

"I was not able to have a break - nothing to drink, eat or even a toilet break. That kind of day is pretty typical."

The workers' personal experiences highlight a social care system that is under considerable pressure due to the lack of domiciliary care staff across the five health trusts.

'Workforce gap'

A spokesperson for the Department said: "Demands on this vital service have grown considerably in recent years - not least in terms of the complexity of the needs being met.

"While clearly it is important that we respond to current needs, we must also look to the future and it is crucial that we develop new models of care to meet the challenges ahead."

They added that the department is finalising a domiciliary care workforce review and that initial findings demonstrate there is a gap in the workforce, resulting in pressure on services.

The review will set out a number of recommendations including commissioning, recruitment and career development and will contribute to the implementation of a health and social care workforce strategy which will be put to an incoming minister.

'Very frail'

The shortage is having a detrimental impact on staff, and it is also affecting patients and their families.

'Totally broken'

Pay rates

'Exploited workers'

'Very concerning'


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