PTSD could trigger rise in social care vacancies post-pandemic, warns Skills for Care boss


The chief executive of Skills for Care has voiced concern that England’s social care vacancy rate will increase following the pandemic, due to a projected rise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among care staff.

During a meeting with Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Oonagh Smyth 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.

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“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.

RCGP Joint Honorary Secretary Dr Jonathan Leach said in a statement last week: “Just as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is increased in armed forces personnel returning from war zones, we expect PTSD to be more common post-COVID as people come to terms with the life-changing experiences they have gone through, either because of their experiences at work or having lost loved ones.”

Smyth concluded: “We heard from the Royal College of GPs that they are expecting more people in general to suffer from PTSD as a result of COVID, and I think considering that our care staff are on the frontline and trying to manage their own service, as well as their own family issues the way that we all do, my concern is that the vacancy rate, particularly among experienced staff, will increase.”

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Sarah Clarke

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