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11th January 2022

Top tips to manage staff absence during the pandemic

With worrying levels of absence in Health and Social Care right now, our expert Abi Spence offers some useful tips to help deal with the impact of Omicron.

What’s on the board

My youngest son has been quite poorly recently. Enough to send him to hospital for four days – and we know that hospital really is a place just for the sick. On the final day as our worry levels dropped, we became more aware of our surroundings.

There was a board to show everyone the number of staff the department should have and another that showed the number and type of staff they had due to shortages.

The numbers don’t tally

The figures, as you can imagine, did not tally favourably. Despite this, staff gave their all and our care was uninterrupted, but I know behind the scenes, staff were stretched to maintain the status quo.

More than a pinch

This is not isolated to the NHS, I know. Social care settings across the country are feeling more than the pinch as the Brexit and burnout blows are followed by the Omicron punch.  News outlets report the spiralling issue of staff retention and staff illness bringing providers to the brink.

I can’t give you a solution

There are not a lot of options if the physical bodies are just not there. I can’t give you tips on managing an impossible situation; all I can do is offer some advice which may ease the burden or signpost you to support. So here it is.

Keep the ball rolling with recruitment campaigns

It’s going to be the long game not just the urgent short. The Department of Health and Social Care has resources you can make use of to save you time you don’t have. Consider promoting your business through existing staff. QCS also has an Ultimate Recruitment Toolkit in the Resource Centre.

Follow your HR policies and contingency plans 

Every provider should have these in place to ensure there is a plan B (not the Government’s plan B!)

Make sure staff are aware of the updated isolation guidance

When self-isolating, testing on day 6 and 7 may mean some staff have two negative lateral flows and can return to work earlier if all COVID-19 symptoms have also gone. Guidance relating to this can be found here.

A is for Agency

Ensure you are connected to a good agency whom you trust and utilise bank staff. With spiralling agency costs, it is important to stay connected to those that align with your values.

Should I contact the CQC?

Notify CQC and let the Local Authority know if resources are going to tip into unacceptable levels to offer safe care and treatment. Get in as early as you can to warn off a worsening storm. Local Authorities have been given monies to address adult social care workforce capacity pressures in their geographical area through recruitment and retention activity this winter.

CQC has a duty to ensure safe care is being provided to individuals. You must notify them if events arise that stop the safe running of your service.

Check out Skills for Care Safe Staffing Guide for information which will help you determine if your service is running safely in relation to staffing and provide helpful information in relation to contingency planning

Thank you

My boy is home and the words he repeated in hospital and to friends were the same. ‘Thank you for supporting me’. So many people across the country will be thinking and saying the same to you.

It is an impossible job currently, but one that is so vital. Whatever the politics or virus, please know we continue to be thankful for what you do, and we will support you not only with our expertise but our heartfelt gratitude.

QCS has resources available to support you and your colleagues through periods of sickness.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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