34-bed care home plea to help solve staffing crisis 

Soham Lodge Care Home

Soham Lodge Care Home - Credit: Soham Lodge Care Home

Businessman David Lidford wants to put an extra five park homes behind his Soham care home to house urgently needed staff. 

He says Soham Lodge Care Centre on the A142 has a shortage of staff which means beds remain empty. 

East Cambridgeshire District Council is considering a planning application to retain existing temporary housing and to provide more to meet its need. 

His agent told planners that the care home has 34 rooms with another seven planned.  

"But due to staff shortages, only 23 are currently occupied,” he says. 

“The centre has found it impossible to attract sufficient staff from within the local economy, despite paying well in excess of industry standards.  

“The care sector is very staff intensive. In order to provide 24-hour, 7 day a week care, Soham Lodge employs over 50 staff for the 23 patients that it currently has.” 

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On average, each patient requires an average of 2.5 full time staff members. 

These include resident carers, carers, kitchen staff, housekeepers, maintenance, laundry staff, admin and management.  

Soham Lodge Care Home, existing staff accommodation

Soham Lodge Care Home, existing staff accommodation - Credit: ECDC Planning

Soham Lodge has a Home Office Sponsorship Licence (SOL) and has already brought in five staff under the scheme.  

Another two are currently going through the process and it has applied to bring in another eight this year.  

The report says: “Housing in this part of Cambridgeshire is scarce and expensive. 

“Soham Lodge finds that, in addition to offering very competitive wages, it is also often necessary to provide accommodation.” 

This is to ensure they retain and attract new staff (whether they are already in the country or sponsored through the SOL scheme).  

Of the five SOL sponsored staff members that Soham Lodge already employs, three live on-site in temporary accommodation. The other accommodation is occupied by UK resident workers.  

But the report adds that Soham Lodge is also finding it increasingly difficult to attract SOL workers unless they can bring their dependents with them (which is allowed under the scheme).  

“Accordingly, the new accommodation needs to be larger and take the form of single and twin park homes,” says the report.  

“Permission is, therefore sought for four single and two twin park homes.” 

The SOL is designed to help migrants obtain work visas to fill jobs where there are shortages and means that care providers are now able to recruit suitable candidates outside of the UK.  

As part of the points-based immigration system, workers applying to come to the UK through this route must reach 70 points to be eligible for a work visa.  

Being offered a job through the SOL scheme is worth 20 points.  

Soham Lodge says that when combined with the mandatory criteria (having an acceptable standard of English, offer from a licenced sponsor and the required skill level – worth 50 points), this should ensure that care workers reach the necessary 70 points.  

Care workers will have to apply for a 12-month health and care worker visa and have been offered a minimum annual salary of £20,480 to qualify.  

They will be entitled to bring dependents, including a partner and children.  

The JTS Partnership, which has prepared the report on behalf of Mr Lidford, says the proposals will enable Soham Lodge to have the flexibility of providing both a job and accommodation.  

“The alternative would entail the use of agency staff,” he says.  

“The significantly increased cost of doing so cannot, however, be justified by the level of fees paid by the local authority and the NHS”. 

Staff shortages and the high cost of using agency staff has caused a number of homes to close.  

“The use of agency staff also significantly increases the chance of Covid being brought into the care home.  

“Soham Lodge’s policy of employing only its own staff, even if that means that some of the bedrooms have to remain vacant, has meant that it has had very few cases throughout the pandemic and has only lost resident to the virus.” 

The report adds: “With NHS guidance still providing that if there are two Covid cases in a care home it cannot take in any residents for 14 days, the centre's caution has allowed it to remain open during much of the pandemic.”