Milton Keynes care company appeals for temporary staff as sickness rates soar due to Omicron

Finance staff and management are pitching in to cover shifts

By Sally Murrer
Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:59 am
Updated Monday, 17th January 2022, 11:00 am

A Milton Keynes care provider is looking for temporary staff as staff sickness rates grow due to the Omicron virus.

PJ Care, which runs the Mallard House and Bluebirds care centres, has seen members of its finance team and high-level management go back to the floor to cover care shifts as 10% of staff are self-isolating or off sick.

“While we’re in a better situation that at the start of the pandemic, when we saw a sudden loss of 20% of our staff, we do need additional people to keep staffing levels at where we want them to be,” said the company’s Chair, Neil Russell.

PJ Care is appealing for more carers in MK

“The reduction of self-isolation to five days will help but not enough. We have optimum staff numbers for each unit, which are well above the number we need to operate safely, and we want to maintain those levels wherever possible so the quality of life for our residents isn’t affected.”

PJ Care’s centres, together with their sister home in Peterborough, are home to adults living with progressive neurological conditions such as Huntington’s disease and young onset dementia, and people with acquired brain injuries.

The group recently lost 4% of its staff, and 87 years of experience, due to the required compulsory vaccinations, and it could lose a further 15 when the self-exemption scheme comes to an end in March.

As a result, it is in the midst of a major recruitment campaign. Assisting in that is former receptionist, Maj Ahmed. She recently returned to the company as a recruitment administrator, having left to take a higher paid role.

“I missed the caring nature of my colleagues, as they became like family,” she said. “I missed working for an organisation who put their residents and employees first. I’m not on the front line of care but as a member of the recruitment team, I know anything I do is contributing towards improving the quality of life of our residents. This is why I needed to come back.”

Staff in the finance and procurement team have been working shifts as healthcare assistants in recent weeks. Maria Chiriac, who works as an accountant, said she’s been happy to help.

“I started with PJ Care as a healthcare assistant so I have the skills and I’m more than happy to go where they need me. It’s obviously not an ideal situation but I’ve enjoyed having contact with the residents again and, as a close-knit organisation, we all do our bit when the call comes.”

Every member of the wider team at PJ Care is working overtime, whether it be a few hours or a few shifts, and Neil praised staff for their “incredible” commitment.

“We cannot thank them enough but we are looking for others to come in and support them so they can have a break,” he said. “We have to remember that our staff need to look after themselves in the same way that they care for our residents.”

The specialist care provider says care staff covering shifts can earn up to £19 per hour thanks to a new supplement offered to those staff who bring numbers up to optimum levels. Neil Russell says temporary positions could also turn into a full-time career.

“We’ve kind of exhausted the current pool of available carers but what we haven’t exhausted are the number of caring, compassionate people who could do fantastic work for the people who live with us. In 2020, we welcomed people who’d been taxi drivers, hairdressers, personal trainers and some who’d informally cared for a relative – skills you can train people in, care comes from the heart.”