Care England warns that social care must not become a ‘poor relation’

Care England has warned that social care must not become the ‘poor relation’ to the NHS as it waits for the first-ever joint workforce strategy health and social care services in England   

In a consultation, which closed earlier this month, the Department of Health and Social Care sets out six key principles that it believes will secure the supply of staff to deliver a high-quality health and care in the future: 

• Training, educating and investing in the workforce to give new and current staff flexibility and adaptability

• Providing broad pathways for staff so they have careers, not just jobs

• Widening participation in NHS jobs

• Ensuring that the NHS, and other employers in the system, are model modern employers

• Ensuring that in future service, financial and workforce planning are properly joined up

Among those to respond was independent provider representative Care England, which has called for “parity of esteem” between the NHS and social care workforce, and a level playing field in terms of government spend on staff development.

Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England said: “Currently the Government spends on average £3,615 on each NHS employee per year on staff development compared with only £16 on each social care employee per year.”  

Care England believes that ways to achieve parity would be to bring together Health Education England, Skills for Care and Skills for Health into one body, as well as implement a multi-year settlement for the development of the health and social care workforce.”

Calling for a workforce strategy to support and retain apprentices, YMCA Training commercial director Dan Rees said: “Careers within health and social care make up 13 per cent of the workforce within the UK. A workforce strategy will enable [apprentices] to work to new quality standards that will provide greater and further career progression.”

To reinforce the call for action, the DHSC cites the £3.7 billion growth in the NHS paybill since 2012 – a result of growing and heavy reliance on expensive agency/bank workers. DHSC figures show that in 2017, 5,000 more nurses left the NHS for reasons other than retirement than in 2012. If retention rates had stayed the same, today there would be 16,000 more nurses working than there currently are.

DHSC also notes that workforce development is unlikely on its own to be successful and it has announced five major reviews – into technology, staff mental health and wellbeing, and a plethora of educational initiatives to support self-care, carers and the volunteer workforce. 

Questions posed to industry during the consultation included harnessing thought-leadership on the policy options could most effectively address the current and future challenges for the adult social care workforce, as well as the changes needed to more effectively train, educate and invest in the workforce now, and in the future.   

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