A care group boss has called for the Government to set up an emergency volunteer army for social care amid fears that providers could run out of staff.
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents providers in York and north Yorkshire said the staffing challenge “is now at the worst it has been throughout the pandemic”.
Shortages are being fuelled by the rapid spread of Omicron he said.
Mr Padgham first made the call for volunteer help in a letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid in August, and has again written to him “as the situation is becoming desperate”.
The idea of a volunteer army for care, similar to that being set up to support the NHS, is a serious one and one that must be implemented immediately, before it is too late
Mike Padgham, ICG
He said he is hearing daily that some care homes and home care providers across England are struggling to operate properly due to shortages.
In his latest letter, he says the Government should appeal for retired nurses, doctors, and carers to come forward for checks and training so they can help struggling social care services.
It reads: “As you know, we need a fully functioning social care sector to ensure that NHS hospital care can function effectively and not be overwhelmed because people cannot be discharged to care settings.
“At the moment, that cannot be guaranteed and I fear the setting up of surge hubs is not a long-term solution as they too will be struggling for staff.
“I repeat my belief that we need the Government to quickly establish a volunteer task force to ease the crisis and ensure we can get through the winter.”
Separately to the letter, Mr Padgham said: “Care providers cannot go on as they are, or the amount and the standards of care are going to be under threat and compromised.
“The idea of a volunteer army for care, similar to that being set up to support the NHS, is a serious one and one that must be implemented immediately, before it is too late.”
The Government has announced an extra £60 million for local authorities to support the adult social care response to coronavirus in January.
This is on top of existing funding to prevent infections and provide testing, a recruitment campaign, and a £162.5 million fund to help providers recruit and retain staff over the coming months.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We appreciate the incredible efforts of adult social care staff throughout the pandemic and have provided record funding and support to boost the workforce during this difficult time.
“In the past 12 months we have made almost £600 million available specifically for recruitment and retention, launched recruitment campaigns and expanded the Health and Care Visa scheme.
“We have also committed £500 million to assist with staff training, qualifications and support as part of the £5.4 billion from the Health and Social Care Levy.”