Some of the UK’s largest not-for-profit care providers have written an open letter to government ministers, asking for immediate support to address serious staffing shortages.
The National Care Forum (NCF), together with its members MHA, Sanctuary Group, Anchor Hanover and the Order of St John Care Trust, are calling for measures to be brought in now to solve “the most acute recruitment and retention crisis in history” and prevent more people from going without the care they need.
Addressing the Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care and Chancellor of the Exchequer, the signatories said: “In his speech on 7 September announcing the Government’s proposals, the Prime Minister made a commitment to ‘investing in the quality of care, in carers themselves’. We are clear that this investment in care workers, and therefore in the continued quality of care, must happen now.
“This is the most acute recruitment and retention crisis that we are aware of historically. It is the result of many years of underfunding in the sector, compounded by a number of other factors including some staff exhausted from the pandemic and others moving to the NHS due to different approaches on mandatory vaccine regulations.”
Social care providers estimate staff turnover across the sector to be in the region of 30% and rising, at a time of growing demand for care services.
A recent survey of more than 2,000 services by the NCF shows that 74% of providers have seen an increase in staff exits since April 2021, with 50% of workers leaving due to stress and 44% finding better pay elsewhere.
This comes on top of serious workforce pressures pre-pandemic, with 112,000 care staff vacancies across the country and a 33% decline in social care nurses since 2012/13.
The open letter said: “Not only are these workforce issues causing our services to be stretched, they are also preventing organisations like ours from providing essential care to more people who need it. This is inevitably leading to more people having to stay in hospital unnecessarily when they are unable to access care packages and be safely discharged.
“We welcome the recruitment and retention measures introduced in the Government’s social care proposals, to support improved pay and conditions for all care staff in the longer term. But these measures will not solve the current workforce crisis.”
Signatories are calling for the following steps to help providers overcome recruitment and retention challenges:
- Offer a retention bonus to care staff, in recognition of the dedication these skilled workers have shown throughout the pandemic
- Add care workers to the shortage occupation list for a defined period, to enable more workers from overseas to work in UK care homes with Skilled Worker visas
- Create a wholly flexible Workforce Capacity Fund now to support immediate recruitment and retention challenges, and upskilling/ training
- Launch an effective national recruitment campaign to inspire people to join the care workforce
- Extend the Infection Control Fund (ICF) to offer practical support to care providers as our essential work to combat Covid-19 continues.
“Without the social care workforce we have no care system. Their skills and dedication, highlighted by the pandemic, have been undervalued for too long,” the letter added.