Lack of nurses causing 'crisis' in Northern Ireland's care homes

High level of unfilled nursing places in the country's care homes will compromise care, warns RCN 

Private nursing homes in Northern Ireland face severe difficulties recruiting and retaining nurses according to a new survey by the RCN.

RCN Northern Ireland said the ‘crisis’ among the workforce registered in the independent sector means vulnerable people will suffer as current service levels are unsustainable.

The survey, taken in July, found 374 full-time nurse posts were vacant in the independent sector.

Almost all of the vacancies were in care homes, with 41% having been unfilled for more than six months.

The independent sector is the sole provider of nursing home care in Northern Ireland and is responsible for more than 12,000 people.

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: ‘The independent nursing home sector is in crisis.

‘It 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 private nursing homes, many of them vulnerable and many of them older people, may lose their homes.

‘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 health and social care 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.'

She added that urgent action is required to 'safeguard the quality and safety of care provided to thousands of vulnerable people'.

The Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety has been asked for a response.

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