A CALL has been made for fundamental changes to tackle the shortage of nurses in Wrexham and Flintshire.
The lack of medically trained staff is leading to nursing home closures which will push the NHS beyond breaking point, according to Mario Kreft, the chairman of Care Forum Wales.
One of the major causes of the problem, says Mr Kreft, is the flawed way in which social care is commissioned.
He said: “The commissioning process should be about quality and securing value for money and not about paying the lowest possible price.”
Mr Kreft spoke out after it was revealed two homes in the Bridgend area were closing.
HC-One, which owns Abergarw Manor in Brynmenyn and Southmead Grange in South Cornelly, blamed “a national shortage of nursing staff” for the “very difficult decision”.
Mr Kreft said: “We know there are major issues affecting the care sector in Wales, particularly in care homes registered for nursing.
“The owners of the two homes in Bridgend have been quite clear that for them the overriding issue was the lack of nurses, the inability to recruit enough nurses of the right calibre.
“That is something that is reflected across Wales It should be recognised the commissioning arrangements make it very difficult to attract people to work in the sector.
“In Wales we don’t commission for quality, it’s more about price, and we then work backwards from the fee that we’re given by local authorities and local health boards.
“The problems are further compounded because we don’t regulate against the service being commissioned so we are regulating for a service that in many ways would be an ideal service with unlimited resources.
Mr Kreft said the problem is compounded by the Welsh Government regulations insisting on a 24/7 nursing presence in nursing homes and the NHS’ refusal to pay for it.
And he says there are not enough new homes being built to replace those that are closing.
Mr Kreft added: “There are a total of over 20,000 beds in the independent social care sector in Wales, and of those 11,500 beds are for people who need nursing care and these beds are underpinning the ability of the NHS to function.
“If we don’t sort this relatively quickly the closures are going to accelerate much more quickly than new investment is coming in, all at a time of soaring demand in an ageing society and when the NHS is also bursting at the seams.
“We urgently need a whole sector solution, we need more nurses in Wales both in the NHS and the independent sector.
“If we work together there are huge savings to be made while at the time providing more appropriate care.
“But if we’re not going to get the quality of commissioning that recognises the quality of staff that we need – both qualified nurses and qualified social care workers – we will be sleepwalking into a disaster.”