The social care sector needs to “be ready” for COVID-19’s impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce as the UK enters a second wave, the chief executive of Skills for Care has warned.
Oonagh Smyth told attendees at the Care Virtual Summit last week that social care organisations need to provide “immediate support” to the workforce to help staff cope during the ongoing crisis.
She added: “I think there is likely to be a timeline between what we are seeing and how that manifests and I think it will take time to see the toll of this crisis on individuals, but I think we need to be ready for that. That includes bodies like Skills for Care supporting employers to understand best practice and how to support the workforce.
“I think we also need to make sure that there is enough staff and enough capacity to meet demand and the expectations of a second a wave because if we don’t have enough people working in the sector that’s only going to add to the pressures on the system itself.”
Smyth has previously predicted a rise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among care staff, including managers, and said this could lead to a rise in vacancies.
During a meeting with Jeremy Hunt in June, the CEO said that while the vacancy rate of 122,000 has “reduced slightly” during the COVID-19 crisis, due to a an influx of new people joining the care sector, a rise in absences will have taken its toll on long-serving, skilled employees.
“During COVID-19, absence rates have trebled, so while we have new people coming into the sector, there is also a greater demand on our very experienced staff,” she said.
“I spoke to a registered manager who hadn’t had a day off in seven weeks because she was trying to hold her service together and support her team. So I think what we might expect is to have an influx of new staff, which is wonderful, but potentially lose some very experienced and values-driven staff if, at the end of this, they suffer from PTSD or if they burnout, and that’s my concern.”
Smyth highlighted research from the Royal College of GPs, which predicts a surge “huge surge” in PTSD among the general population due to COVID-19.