A SOCIAL care champion has called for urgent action to combat the staffing crisis affecting care homes across North Wales.

Mary Wimbury, the chief executive of Care Forum Wales, says one of the main reasons for the shortage is underfunding of  private and third sector run care homes and domiciliary care agencies which means they can’t afford to pay competitive rates.

She is urging local authorities and health boards to set realistic fees for the coming financial year to ensure that front line staff can be paid what they deserve.

According to Ms Wimbury, even supermarkets can offer higher entry level wages, making the retail sector a better financial option.

The problems in recruiting and retaining staff in the social care sector were also having a disastrous, knock on effect on the NHS.

Welsh hospitals are at breaking point because of so-called bed-blocking with patients unable to be discharged after their medical treatment has been completed.

As a result, there are very few hospital beds available for incoming patients, many of whom have to endure being kept in ambulances outside or on trolleys  for hours on end.

Ms Wimbury said: “Social care is a people business. We need people to care for people and enable them to live the best lives they can with the best care and support.

“We need people with the right values and it  can be a really rewarding job because you are engaging with people’s lives and helping them enjoy those lives as much as possible.

“However, it’s difficult to keep up with the entry level wages offered by supermarkets and the like who can offer higher pay.

“The majority of care in Wales is commissioned by local authorities and health boards.

“We’ve obviously got the commitment from the Welsh Government that, at least, the Real Living wage should be paid but we’re currently discussing what the fees for local authorities and health boards are going to be paying across Wales for the coming year.

“We know they’re feeling pressure on their budgets but it is vitally important the fees they received by care homes and domiciliary care companies reflect the actual cost of providing care so that we can pay our staff what they deserve.

“It’s making sure that money gets through, gets to the front line and enables us to reward people for the valuable jobs they’re doing as well as possible and to keep them in the sector then they’re facing their own cost of living crises.

“Health and social care are flip sides of the same coin so social care is about that care and support that people need that can keep them out of hospital in the first place and enable them to come out of hospital more quickly when they’ve been in as well.

“Both parts of the system need to work together in order to keep people flowing through the system but also, enable people to have the best quality of life that they can.”