A LEADING care provider in Inverness has warned that the sector would face "certain collapse" without immigration.
Bosses at Meallmore say staff from overseas are essential to keep the care industry running.
The company, which operates 23 care homes across Scotland from its base in the Highlands, has estimated that around five per cent of its workforce come from abroad, particularly from the European Union.
Almost 42 per cent of care providers recruit workers from the EU, while 26 per cent look outside Europe to ease their staffing concerns.
Bosses at the company say employing overseas workers has become standard practice in the industry as a result of a global shortage of nursing staff.
Mary Preston, Meallmore’s operations director, said: "Without looking to overseas applicants, the sector would face certain collapse.
"Our residents need and expect continuity of care and it is a constant task to ensure that there are enough trained and capable applicants coming through the system to work alongside our exceptional and loyal nursing teams.
"There are just not enough nurses in Scotland and whilst we always endeavour to recruit locally we also invest heavily in attracting applicants from the EU and further afield, then supporting them to settle here and integrate into the local community."
The situation is predicted to worsen in the coming years as the average age of Scotland’s population continues to rise.
Scottish Care, a leading membership body for private care enterprises in Scotland, reported last year that 91 per cent of homes struggled to fill nursing vacancies.
Chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said: "With between six and eight per cent of staff employed in care homes coming from the European Economic Area and a 31 per cent vacancy rate for nurses, not being able to attract staff has a direct impact on the ability of providers to staff care homes.
"The risk is that some of our old and frail citizens will be delayed even longer in hospitals because care homes will not be available.
"Scottish Care believes that we will continue to require skilled and dedicated staff from Europe and elsewhere to come to our communities to work alongside us in order to care. This can only be achieved by a migration system which is flexible and responsive to the needs of our communities and the current demand for nurses amongst others."
The warnings came in the midst of the Scottish Government’s We Are Scotland campaign, highlighting the importance of immigration to the country’s economic prospects.
Meanwhile, the results of the latest inspection of Meallmore Lodge care home at Daviot have been published by the Care Inspectorate.
The lodge scored three marks out of a possible six in the Quality of Care and Quality of Staffing categories.
It also scored four marks for Quality of Environment and Quality of Management and Leadership.
The Inspectorate made a number of recommendations to the home, pointing out that residents "should receive care in a planned and agreed way that meets their needs."
Bosses at the home were advised that staff should have regular supervision in order to enhance their training needs.
The body also suggested that the environment at the home should be reassessed, and an action plan put in place to assist those with dementia or other impairments.