The government has increased weekly payments for care home residents with nursing needs by 11.5% as vacancies for nurses working in social care continue to mount.
The Department of Health and Social Care will also fund £87m in back payments for NHS-funded nursing care (FNC), on the back of research it conducted with providers on the costs of nursing services within care homes.
Providers welcomed the increase, which came as Skills for Care figures revealed that the vacancy rate for registered nurses working in adult social care had reached 18.5%, up 7.9 percentage points on March 2021.
Funded nursing care is designed to fund services provided to nursing home residents by a registered nurse involving either the provision of care or the planning, supervision or delegation of the provision of care. It is paid to care homes in England by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) as under section 22 of the Care Act 2014, registered nursing costs generally cannot be met by a local authority. CCGs are due to be replaced by integrated care systems, which will be much larger geographically, from July 2022.
The standard weekly FNC rate will rise from £187.60 to £209.19 for 2022-23, backdated to 1 April 2022. The higher rate – paid to the very few residents who received it when the previous three bands were merged into one in 2007 – will also rise by 11.5%, from £258.08 to £287.78 per week.
The additional £87m will fund back payments of £21.93 per week for those on the standard rate and £30.17 for those on the higher rate for 2021-22.
Chief nurse for adult social care Deborah Sturdy, who is based within the DHSC, said: “Nurses across social care play an essential role in delivering high-quality, complex care to those who require the skills and expertise of registered nurses. This funding is vital to supporting their role in planning and providing care.”
Independent provider umbrella body Care England commended the department for “recognising the cost increases faced by providers and the impact of the pandemic on our valued nurses”.
Chief executive Martin Green added: “As we move forward, we must seek longer-term solutions to the national nursing shortage and the difficulties the sector has recruiting nurses and slowing the rates of attrition.”
The Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and North Yorkshire, also welcomed the announcement.
However, chair Mike Padgham said:“Whilst today’s announcement is good news for nursing in social care it is only a first step and we must keep up the pressure for complete, root and branch funding reform of social care so that we can properly recognise, respect and reward not only nursing staff but all care staff working in social care settings.”
Highest vacancy rate
At 18.5%, the vacancy rate for nurses in April 2022 – based on submissions from providers to Skills for Care’s adult social care workforce data set – was the highest for any job role in the sector. It was also an increase on the March 2022 of 18%.
Nursing homes’ recruitment struggles are also illustrated by the fact that their number of filled posts has fallen by 6% since March 2021, the highest of any adult social care service, according to Skills for Care’s figures.
NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, joined social care leaders in welcoming the FNC increase. However, director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin warned: “While this is a welcome step, the number of registered nurses working in adult social care has been steadily declining over the past decade. We urgently need a longer-term solution to current workforce shortages across the health and care system.”
‘Need to increase home care capacity and wages’
Deakin said there should be a similar focus on increasing capacity – and wages – in home care.
“All care workers deserve to be recognised and rewarded for their contribution alongside social care nurses,” she added. “We are particularly keen that similar attention be paid to supporting care in people’s homes, where there is a pressing need to increase capacity and to ensure that care providers can afford to offer wages which reflect the true value of these critical roles.”
The latest Skills for Care workforce data showed that, overall, the vacancy rate was highest in domiciliary care, at 13.5% in April 2022, up from 13% on March 2022, and 8.3% in April 2021. The average for the whole sector was 10.3%, up from 10% in March 2022 and 6.1% in April 2021.