Around a third of nursing posts in care homes are vacant, with providers reporting increased difficulties recruiting staff, a new report has found.
Scottish Care, which represents the independent health and social care sector, estimates the vacancy level stands at 31%, up on the 28% estimate for 2016.
The number of organisations experiencing difficulties filling vacancies has increased year on year, its latest survey also indicates.
Nine out of 10 providers indicated they were having difficulties filling nurse vacancies in 2017, with 54% reporting that they had found recruitment to be more difficult this year than the previous year.
The Independent Sector Nursing Data 2017 report was compiled using responses to a Scottish Care online survey, held over two weeks from late September 2017.
A total of 91 organisations, representing 317 care homes, responded to the survey, with 85% from private organisations and 15% from voluntary providers such as charities.
The report found that providers are becoming increasing reliant on agencies to plug gaps in staffing.
Almost half of those surveyed reported an increased use of agency staff over the past three months.
The average cost per shift was estimated by Scottish Care at £434, with some providers noting they pay up to £1,000 a night for a nursing shift.
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said: “Last year we reported that we were facing a significant challenge in relation to the shortage of nurses working in our care homes.
“Despite strenuous efforts matters have got even worse in 2017 and we are now at the stage of many care homes being placed at real risk in terms of their survival.
“Paying exorbitant agency fees to plug a continuing gap is wholly unsustainable. Urgent short-term measures are needed, and require us to work with Scottish Government and other partners to find solutions to this challenge.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government continues to work with stakeholders, including Scottish Care, on recommendations from Scottish Care’s Voices from the Nursing Front Line report.
“Although more can still be done, significant progress has been made including action to enhance the care home setting for student nurses and staff.
“There’s been a 4.7% increase in nursing and midwifery intakes for 2017/18 – the fifth successive rise.
“To meet projected requirements, we are creating an estimated 2,600 extra training places over the next four years as part of a wider package to recruit newly qualified nurses and midwives and to retain existing nurses.”