Managing the Incoming Tide of Agency Costs in the Care Sector.

The care home staffing process is often considered one of the biggest challenges that management teams face.  It’s an ever-moving target as they react to vacant shifts and staff turnover. Additionally, with the recent government Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ changes, this means that there is even more pressure on the national shortage of care workers and nurses, making it impossible to rely on a large pool of upcoming, newly qualified staff – it simply doesn’t exist.  Having a pre-vetted agency on speed dial for last minute support to bridge the ever-growing care home staffing gap can be a relief for care home management teams.

The True Costs of Using an Agency for Care Home Staffing

Proactively reducing reliance on agency is usually in the top three business strategies for operators, particularly when it comes to using them in your care home staffing process. For two key reasons: quality of care and cost.  While agencies may be on speed dial, the cost of hiring agency staff can be extortionate, with reports suggesting that some agencies have tried to charge £2700 per shift* and others claiming that agency costs alone can account for 6% of all staff costs for personal care and almost 10% for nursing homes.**  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has also been seen to link low standards of care provision to high levels of agency usage, stating that, without a consistent team in place, day-to-day patient deterioration is missed.  When using agency in your care home staffing process, operators therefore know that they’re paying more for likely lower quality care.

Strategic Plans for Care Home Staffing Need to Be in Place

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, care home operators cannot provide any level of resident care if they are understaffed. A key part of your care home staffing processm is to ensure you have strategies in place to reduce likely need of agency. These care home staffing strategies often include over-staffing by 10-20% per day to give flexibility for last minute absences, forward recruiting and having large pots of qualified bank staff ready to deploy.

These care home staffing strategies have all shown success for operators and reduced agency presence in their homes. We’ve taken this into account by developing our software to enable care home operators to have better visibility of their care home staffing requirements and sped up communication with staff through digitised rotas. Operators can act quickly in the case of staff sickness or turnover to remain compliant and protect staffing ratios.

The Impact Overseas Care Home Staff Can Have on Your Bottom-line

Whilst the ideal would be to avoid any agency usage at all, sometimes it is a necessary part of a care home staffing process, in being able to deliver safe staffing levels. Recruitment in social care is not easy and your current team’s availability can suddenly become unstable for reasons beyond operators’ control.

The impact of Brexit is also yet to be truly felt, with staff who come from outside the EEA needing to earn £35,000 or more if they want to stay in the UK. This will empty the pool of emergency staff considerably and is highly likely to push staff costs up even further.

How Easy-Care Home Management Software Can Help

Some agency usage seems a reality that most care homes need to prepare for.  Without a care home management system, there’s often a lack of transparency at play in the operator/agency/supply employee relationship.  Knowing how much agency you’ve got planned, for example, may indicate that you need to increase the priority of your recruitment drive.  Alternatively, it might suggest that some teams are over-relying on agency and their rostering practices need reviewing.

Certainly, you are likely to get some big bills from agency and operators should be making sure they have foresight of this for cashflow management and are paying accurately for hours delivered. One of the features of our care home management software, we solve this for our users through a user-friendly ledger which keeps a record of all planned, completed and cancelled agency hours.  The longer foresight an operator can get of the likely usage, the more they can do to address that in advance and prevent unnecessary use.  It’s also a very helpful reconciliation tool to make sure you are paying for hours genuinely delivered.

Given the current climate and the increase in demand that more care homes are facing, recruitment of staff has never been so important. To see how easy to use technology such as CoolCare can help you, simply visit www.coolcare4.co.uk to request a free no obligation online demonstration.

 

*https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/23/agency-tried-to-charge-care-homes-2700-a-shift-for-workers

**https://content.knightfrank.com/research/548/documents/en/care-homes-trading-performance-review-2019-6698.pdf