The Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland has published the results of a survey of the registered nursing workforce in the independent sector in Northern Ireland.
This has confirmed that private nursing homes are having severe difficulty recruiting and retaining nurses which is challenging their ability to deliver a sustainable service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said:
“The independent nursing home sector is in crisis. The sector is facing a significant threat from under-funding and an inability to recruit and retain the required number of registered nurses. As a result the people who live in our private nursing homes, many of them vulnerable and many of them older people, may lose their home.
“The RCN has been raising issues about inadequate workforce planning in Northern Ireland for some time. The independent sector is the sole provider of nursing home care for over 12,000 people in Northern Ireland, yet its nursing workforce requirements have never been addressed when determining the number of nurses required as part of regional workforce planning.
“We simply do not have enough nurses in Northern Ireland and, despite significant efforts by the independent sector to recruit staff, they cannot retain them as they are being constantly recruited by HSC trusts.
“Warnings about financial viability and nursing shortages in the sector have been ignored. These two factors have led to the closure of homes recently and we fear these may be the first of many.
“The fee for the provision of nursing home care is totally inadequate to cover the complex needs of patients in nursing homes. Urgent action is required to if we are to sustain this sector and safeguard the quality and safety of care provided to thousands of vulnerable people.”
The survey confirmed that in July 2015 the independent sector had 374 full time registered nurse posts vacant. Almost all (361) of these vacancies were in nursing homes and 41% had been vacant for longer than six months.
“The situation facing the independent sector is entirely unacceptable in any modern health care system and maintaining the status quo is not an option. The real victims in this situation are the patients and action must be taken immediately to address these serious issues.”