Is demand for skilled nurses outstripping supply?

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Advertisement The baby boom generation is producing an unprecedented surge in demand for carers – but it seems not to be delivering an unusually large number of extra workers. On the face of it, the answer should be obvious: more people need to be trained to look after people living in care homes. But could the difference actually be because the care economy is growing so slowly – with 25% fewer workers needed than it was five years ago? Are we reaping what we sowed? We want to hear your views about this issue In January 2009, care services minister Paul Burstow called for more training and more self-taught nurses to take over. “I am encouraging the next generation of nurses to be aware of the amazing variety of nursing professions that exist and to consider a career in one of them,” he said. “I understand why people might feel nervous about training up as a nurse; the rigorous academic requirements necessary for it are also daunting – but we have to do more to attract people to the profession.” Could apprenticeships help? The government is currently drawing up a roadmap for training nurses up to the standard required for nursing roles. Last September, the government also announced the expansion of apprenticeships to include care work. An apprenticeship is a gap year apprenticeship which offers young people to gain qualifications, secure work experience and learn life skills in return for money. Interest in self-taught nursing was boosted at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference in March 2011. Staff from Sheffield University gave evidence about recent courses that included courses in nursing, nursing care and baby care in nursing colleges. Mark Casie, assistant professor of nursing said: “Nursing schools simply do not have the capacity, nor the training, needed to deliver care that meets the care needs of older people.” Viewers suggested that there is no alternative to trained staff in nursing, and care homes have to accept what the government puts forward. However, if the government has to accept a shortage of trainers – what can the Home-Owners Alliance be doing to increase the labour force? Thomas McGuire, the Home-Owners Alliance’s head of research, said: “Home-Owners Alliance were the first lobby group to highlight the need for a coherent long-term plan for the care industry. “So despite the Government getting its pre-legislative campaign for the Care Bill into shape, the shortcomings in housing policy, and government’s stance on social care, don’t appear to have gone away. Our work in the short-term is focused on the financial position of care homes to see if this can be improved as it has been recently for education and nursing.” And will the Government quickly be able to realise a vast skilled labour demand? To say it has been hampered by a shortage of even people to attract would be almost a gross understatement. “We simply do not have enough people trained to carry out the courses required in these organisations,” said academic Martin Cooke, dean of health at Nottingham University, at a recent conference. “There are huge disparities among different parts of the NHS and care system. “One of the problems is that organisations have not really identified where they need new recruits.” Remaking care England is spending huge sums of money every year on care for people, including elderly, those with learning disabilities and care for people with dementia. In 2009 the government’s so-called Queen’s Speech to the Royal College of Nursing promised that every elderly resident should be cared for by someone from the same community within four years, and that 80% of people with dementia would be provided with around-the-clock care. Talking to the BBC at an event on this subject last year, the national president of the Royal College of Nursing, Tony Porter, laid much of the blame at the feet of the government. “When the Government has made a commitment it must deliver it,” he said. “Things like local areas taking responsibility for promoting people into the most appropriate nursing jobs where they are needed and investing in training and development to address this long-term issue, are desperately needed.” Professor Dr Nicholas Fox, a local government and health expert, agrees. “Is this just people burying their heads in the sand? No,” he says. “If we are serious about reducing the number of people needing long-term care in the future then we need to be changing the social and economic arrangements that currently support people and their families.” So what can the Home-Owners Alliance do to encourage more people to enter the care professions?

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