Health Foundation highlights workforce exodus

One in four social care staff are leaving the sector every year, according to a new briefing from The Health Foundation.

The General Election briefing warns that the future NHS and social care workforce is at risk without urgent action from the incoming government to establish a sustainable and joined up strategy.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at The Health Foundation, said: “It is clear that both the NHS and the social care system in England are struggling to secure the staff they need. As the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Sustainability concluded, this is one of the greatest risks to these vital services. The high rate of staff voting with their feet and leaving social care jobs raises concerns about the sustainability of the service and its ability to ensure high quality care.”

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More than 900 social care workers are leaving the profession every day, equivalent to 27% of the total workforce in 2015/16 up from 23% in 2012/13.

The issue is being compounded by a lack of new workers entering the sector, the briefing adds, with over 80,000 social care vacancies currently in England.

While acknowledging the benefits of the National Living Wage, the briefing says average earnings for health and social care staff fell by 6% in real terms between 2010 and 2017.

The briefing highlights the sector’s increasing reliance on agencies with one in ten staff on a temporary contract and one in four people now on zero hours contracts.

Anita added:  “Retention, recruitment and morale will continue to be a thorn in the side of the health and social care sector if action is not taken to address the root cause of these problems.

“If pay restraint in the public sector continues to 2019/20, it will have been in place for almost a decade. It is a policy that is testing the resilience of the workforce and the ability of services to improve while maintaining standards of care. Uncertainty over Brexit is another key concern. Around 90,000 social care workers are from the EU, and over 60,000 in the NHS (more than one in 20).  If there is a significant reduction in EU health and care staff following the UK’s decision to leave the EU it could have major implications for the quality and availability of services.”

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