Jonathan Bruce is the managing director, Prestige Nursing + Care, a national home care services provider. Here, he calls for a cross-party solution to fill the social care recruitment gap and to provide clarity and confidence in the future direction of the sector.
The race for the Conservative Party leadership and next Prime Minister is on, with Brexit likely to remain at the top of the agenda for the foreseeable future. As a result, the crisis facing the UK health and social care sector will continue to be neglected.
Recent reports show that half a million patients have been ‘displaced’ from their GP as a result of surgery closures over the past five years, while the number of practising GPs has also dropped. This marks the first decline in 50 years and could not have come at a worse time.
And the UK’s ageing population continues to grow, the proportion of Britons aged over 65 – who traditionally require extra care and assistance – is expected to jump from 18% of the wider UK population to 25% by 2036, according to data from the ONS. Unsurprisingly, this will place increasing pressure on an already stretched NHS and care industry.
Sadly, despite this news, projections from leading healthcare thinktanks this year suggest that the staff gap in care could grow to 100,000 in the next decade for nurses alone. The industry therefore urgently needs to come together and urge the government to help address this issue and find solutions.
However, the ongoing stagnation and uncertainty around Brexit continues to create a number of challenges. The care sector and nursing industry relies on the expertise of overseas workers and Brexit means that if, or when it happens, the support provided by foreign care workers will diminish significantly. Already, the care industry needs to fill a gap of a quarter of a million roles and the impact of Brexit is only likely to further exacerbate the issue.
Current recruitment drives aren’t enough
Initiatives such as the ‘Every Day is Different’ campaign, designed to increase recruitment in the care sector, are a good start, but the social care Green Paper, a much-needed indication of the government’s plans and projections for the care sector and those working within it, has been pushed onto the back burner.
Not only has the deadline been moved, but there have been suggestions that disagreements on how to fund the plans between No. 10 and the Department of Health run deep. It is imperative, then, that these disagreements are ironed out. This is an issue that needs a united front and, ideally, a cross-party solution to fill the recruitment gap and to provide clarity and confidence in the future direction (and funding) of the care sector.
Regardless of who the next Prime Minister is, we don’t know what they intend to do to tackle the care crisis. The focus so far has been on Brexit, deal versus no deal, and re-negotiations.
For the care sector to not just survive, but also thrive, we need a real plan, detailing costs, and specific details about how the Government can work with the care sector to help solve the crisis engulfing the industry. The industry is doing its bit to promote the benefits of working in care, but it also needs real focus from an engaged government.