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My noble friend makes a very good point. The majority of people who work in the sector are care workers on the basic minimum wage, or something related to that. What we are discussing this evening is nursing care which will be paid at a union rate; nevertheless, it is stretching the sector.
The Minister knows about the shortage of nurses, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, spoke about the shortage of care workers. Why do we have restrictions on agency nurses’ nursing hours of 10% of the total? Clearly, we cannot have agency nurses covering the whole thing; everyone across both health and social care frets about agency nursing and its expense over and above that of paying for directly employed people. But what is a nursing home to do if there are no salaried nurses available? Is the 10% smoothed over a month or a year? Is this realistic? How realistic is it for less than 10% of nursing hours to be delivered by the agency? This will be locally variable—relatively straightforward, perhaps, in city settings but where my noble friend and I live in Cornwall, people such as agency nurses are like hens’ teeth. This is not straightforward, and I am not convinced that it is absolutely workable.
This measure looks hurried, but I suppose any increase is welcome. I await the Minister’s response to some of the comments that I have made and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton.