Latest NCF Pulse Survey results

February 11, 2021

The National Care Forum (NCF) presented results from its latest Pulse Survey at a press conference this morning.

The Survey was completed by NCF members operating 1,180 care and support services throughout England. Participants employed over 47,568 staff and supported over 42,000 residents and service users across a wide range of care service types, to include care homes, supported living, extra care housing and community-based support services.

Working together with market research agency Information by Design, the Survey provides an in-depth analysis of how care providers are operating in the pandemic to give a picture of how COVID-19 is affecting providers and the people they support and employ.

A summary of the Pulse Survey findings revealed:

  • Vaccination: good progress but more to do to ensure all care staff are vaccinated by 15 Feb – key gaps remain in the care workforce beyond care homes for older people, especially in domiciliary care.
  • Finance: facing very serious financial pressures which, according to NCF, will only get worse – costs are up, income is down, occupancy is declining and many local authorities seem to be struggling to offer fee rate increases that will cover the increase in the NLW.
  • Workforce: combined pressure due to vacancy rates and increasing absence rates; vacancy rates sit at around 5% while the absence rates has increased to 8% in Jan 2021. NCF said It is clear that staffing pressures vary greatly, but the impact of COVID-19 infection and isolation can be very significant in individual care services.
  • Visiting: providers trying hard to keep some visiting going within lockdown limits: 67% of respondents were still offering visiting during January.
  • Data matters: NCF said it is totally unacceptable that key COVID data collected from the sector is not being shared with the care sector: From the progress on vaccination, to visiting, to numbers of positive cases and outbreaks, providers cannot see the overall national picture, nor their more local and regional picture. This data is essential to help nimble and responsive operational and contingency planning by care providers who need to adapt quickly to their local situation across the country.

Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum said, ‘The sustainability of many services is coming under significant pressure across the not-for-profit sector. There is a very real concern that providers may not be able to continue to operate existing services and or to invest in new services and innovate for new models of care.

‘Access to social care is a positive choice for many people and for some the only choice providing life-enhancing services to those who need it the most. The long-term funding and sustainability of the adult social care sector should not just be a matter of priority for this government but an essential outworking of their responsibility to the many hundreds of thousands of people who rely on social care for their day to day living and wellbeing.’


The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched their recruitment campaign this week and the Department of Work and Pensions has been driving the Kickstart scheme to the sector. CMM asked NCF and webinar guests whether the Government should be doing more to help retain current staff and what support does the sector need from the Government?

Brian James, Operations Manager, Keychange, said, ‘The retention issue that we aren’t addressing is the retention issue in 18 months to two years’ time.  I have many of my colleagues who are thinking whether they can face another winter, or year, like the one in 2020. There are people who have measured their retirement plans out by the month, post-pandemic. I think that applies to every level of the workforce in the sector. If we don’t work harder to improve the ability to retain people in social care, then when hospitality, leisure and retail pick up again, we will see people moving away from social care. We can’t afford to stop the messaging about the appeal and attraction of social care. We will see a number of registered managers thinking: how long will I keep this up?’

Vic Rayner, Executive Director at the National Care Forum said, ‘What the messages in the Government’s recruitment campaigns don’t address is the messaging around pay terms and conditions of staff within the sector – that has been, and remains, one of the biggest challenges from a recruitment perspective and looking ahead to the reform agenda - it will need to address the pay terms and conditions of staff and put us in a position where we have a concrete workforce plan as the NHS does – which takes us forward over the next 5-10 years. We need address the issue of pay terms and conditions.'

Visit the NCF website for more information about the Pulse Survey.

In the latest issue of CMM Magazine, Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum takes a look at what we might expect from 2021.



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