Social care workforce crisis

July 25, 2022

Social care is facing the greatest workforce crisis in its history and lacks a credible Government strategy to tackle the situation, say MPs.

The Workforce: recruitment, training and retention report from the Health and Social Care Committee outlines the scale of the workforce crisis. New research suggests the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives; evidence on workforce projections say an extra 475,000 jobs will be needed in health and an extra 490,000 jobs in social care by the early part of the next decade; and hospital waiting lists reached a record high of nearly 6.5 million in April.

The report finds the Government to have shown a marked reluctance to act decisively to address the workforce crisis. In addition, pay is a crucial factor in recruitment and retention in social care. Government analysis estimated more than 17,000 jobs in care paid below the minimum wage. A separate report by the Committee’s panel of independent experts (Expert Panel) published today rates the Government’s progress overall to meet key commitments it has made on workforce as 'inadequate'.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, said, 'Persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, a situation compounded by the absence of a long term plan by the Government to tackle it.

'We now face the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and in social care with still no idea of the number of additional doctors, nurses and other professionals we actually need. NHS professionals know there is no silver bullet to solve this problem but we should at least be giving them comfort that a plan is in place. This must be a top priority for the new Prime Minister.'

The sector has issued its response to the Committee's report detailing the extent of the social care workforce crisis.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, 'The social care workforce is under considerable pressure and one of the biggest challenges and priorities for councils is ensuring we have a workforce fit for both the here and now and the future.

'The future requirements of and for the social care workforce should be a far more prominent consideration for Government, both as a standalone priority and in respect of its links with NHS workforce planning. As this report makes clear, there is still a long way to go.

'It is vital that we are able to match the skills and ambitions of our future workforce with the aspirations of people who draw on care and support.

'Urgent action is also needed to address the current recruitment and retention crisis in social care, including on pay, conditions, skills and training.'

Helen Wildbore, Director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said, 'The Health and Social Care Committee's Expert Panel Report lists an astonishing number of failures by the Government and we were not surprised to see its overall progress rated as 'inadequate'.

'We agree that the Government has no real plans for dealing with the greatest workforce crisis we have ever faced. Social care cannot continue to be a poor relation of the NHS, and the crisis will continue as long as social care staff are undervalued and underpaid. Older people needing care are paying the price for these failures as staff shortages put their safety, dignity and other rights at risk.'

Sir Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said, 'The RCP has been calling for concerted action to address the workforce crisis in health and care for several years, and today’s report further underscores the need for this.

'While there have been some positive developments, such as confirmation from the Department for Health and Social Care that a workforce strategy will be published by the end of this year, and that progress to regulate physician associates will get underway by the end of 2022, we still have far more to do to ensure the health and care system has enough people. We are expecting far too much of the workforce at present which is being evidenced time and again by growing vacancy rates and poor employee satisfaction.'

The Royal College of Nursing Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said, 'The findings of the Committee show in the starkest of detail the workforce crisis across the whole of health and social care in England. That persistent understaffing in all care settings poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety should shock ministers into action.'

In other news, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned that gaps remain in how vulnerable people are protected in care settings, leaving their human rights at risk of being breached.


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