The outcome from a high level debate, led by a group from the University of the West of England, (UWE), Bristol and Warwick Medical School, was consensus to lobby government to address the pressing need for future change to ensure the 500,000 people employed in the independent residential care sector have an appropriate training in basic nursing skills to offer the best care for our ageing population.
Those contributing included experts from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Quality Care Commission, General Practice, National Skills Academy for Social Care, the British Geriatrics Society as well as lead independent, voluntary and public sector providers of long-term care.  There was consensus that a nationally-recognised training and development programme for up-skilling care home staff with basic nursing skills needs to be implemented across the 18,000 care homes in England.
Professor Ala Szczepura from Warwick Medical School, said: “Our research indicates that increased training of social care workers in basic nursing skills can help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, improve quality of care for older residents and reduce costs for the NHS.”
Deidre Wild from the University of West of England, added: “The question is not whether social care staff can be trained to undertake a range of basic nursing skills – we have seen that they are exceptionally responsive to learning new ways to provide a better quality of care. The real issue is who is going to take responsibility for consistency at a national level for such care improvements being implemented locally?”
Warwick Medical School and UWE confirmed there was consensus on three key recommendations:
Improve the abilities of home managers: by creating a national chartered professional management qualification building on the Registered Manager’s Award. The National Skills Academy for Social Care is already well placed to respond to this development.
National registration of home managers and support workers: this should be competency-based, and derived from competencies already identified by providers at a local level.
A standardised induction with basic training for care home staff: this should be provided as low cost e-learning, to enable funds to be released for the more specialised training needed.
This debate comes at a time of increased demand upon public health and social services prompting the ad hoc growth of many projects aimed at up-skilling the social care worker. However, without a responsible professional framework we risk leaving vulnerable older people at increased risk from an unregulated system.
Notes for Editors:
The last two decades has seen an increased use of care homes for long-term care of older people
Pressure on hospital beds is increasing the role of care homes in rehabilitation
Over 440,000 people are now cared for in registered care homes, most are older people 75+ years
The number of people aged 75+ is projected to nearly double in England by 2033 – 4.8 to 8.7 million
Two-thirds of UK care home residents have some form of dementia – and this figure is rising.
Care Homes & Workforce
1.31 million people are directly employed in adult social care in England (compared with 1.37 million in the NHS)
584,000 are employed in independent sector residential care, the largest social care workforce
The adult social care workforce required by 2025 will be 2.0 – 2.5 million
In addition to social care staff, nearly 32,000 Registered Nurses are employed in nursing homes
England has nearly 19,000 care homes for adults and older people
Residential homes provide 261,861 beds, nursing homes a further 179,019 beds. This compares with 167,000 beds in NHS hospitals.