INDEPENDENT care homes in Scotland are “on the breadline” due to a recruitment crisis and wage pressure with many facing closure as a result, say a new report.

Industry body Scottish Care said the sector is facing a “real emergency” including further closures unless remedial action is taken within the year.

The Care Home Workforce Data Report found recruitment difficulties were hitting the “quality of care”.

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Almost four out of five homes (79per cent) said they are struggling to recruit nurses, while a quarter face recruitment problems for front line care staff and 35per cent struggle to find managers. It warns that the sector is confronted with “critical” problems, including serious recruitment and retention problems.

There is also a “scandalous” shortage of nurses and “inadequate resourcing” to implement the Scottish Living Wage (SLW).

According to the data, the result is that many operators are “holding on by their fingertips”.

More than three quarters (77per cent) of the homes have vacancies and one in five (21per cent) have “significantly increased” their use of agency nursing staff to fill gaps.

Average turnover of staff in the care homes surveyed is 22per cent, up from 17per cent in 2015. More than one in four (42per cent) of care home services believe paying Scottish Living Wage of £8.45 an hour has made them less sustainable, mainly due to lack of funding.

Scottish Care chief executive officer Dr Donald Macaskill said: “We are struggling to recruit new staff and hold on to existing staff. There is a shortage of nurses which is little short of scandalous. There is a wholly inadequate resourcing of initiatives such as the Scottish Living Wage. Put simply, care homes cannot continue to survive on the breadline.

“Discussions on reform are coming to a critical stage. I hope this research sharpens the minds of all involved to realise that unless we identify real positive actions which include an adequate funding of care homes, we will be in a state which will be irretrievable.

“A small number of care homes are closing because they simply cannot survive.

“It is incumbent on government at local and national level to recognise the real dangers this sector faces today and to respond accordingly or within the year, we will be faced with a real emergency. We cannot continue to get care on the cheap.”

A total of 161 care homes responded to the survey, looking after an average of 9,327 residents each week.

Scottish Care quizzed its members on issues such as recruitment and retention of staff, payment of the Scottish Living Wage and the sustainability of services.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Raising the status of social care as a profession, and attracting and retaining the right people, is key to delivering quality care.

“That is why we have taken action to protect care services, including paying the Living Wage to adult care workers boosting the income of up to 40,000 people.

“This commitment is in place for care workers in both public and private sectors.

“In the current year, there will be almost half a billion pounds of NHS investment in social care and integration.”