How care homes can overcome staffing issues post-COVID and Brexit

How can care homes overcome staff recruitment barriers in the wake of a global pandemic and Brexit? Gary Snart, director of Total Workforce Solutions at procurement provider HealthTrust Europe, says the pressure is unprecedented.

As the Social Care sector faces unique pressure on budgets and staffing, balancing the development of a forward-thinking workforce strategy alongside managing the costs and sustainability of delivering services to the highest standards is increasingly difficult.

Gary Snart

The sector is challenged by a shortage in essential care workers as a result of lockdown measures – culminating in a sector wide struggle to find sustainable solutions to staffing. For example, self-isolation/shielding has led to a temporary reduction in the workforce, whilst social distancing measures have made physical interviews and vital staff training almost impossible.

Providers have become dependent on agency workers as a result – given they are already equipped with the training needed to fill employment gaps created by the outbreak. Whilst agency workers are therefore effective in the short-term, they can pose challenges in terms of quality and cost in the long-term, meaning care homes must identify a solution that seeks to regulate the surcharge wage that agency staff are paid.

So how do we tackle the immediate recruitment problem? One option is to use hosted technology platforms that enable care homes to offer remote interviews and training courses – minimising risks and ensuring government guidelines are followed. Another option to reduce agency worker costs is to use contracted Preferred Supplier Lists which enable organisations to source accredited agency workers suited to the care homes individual budget capacity.

The benefits of both solutions also extend beyond the Coronavirus outbreak, as we look towards the Brexit deadline rapidly approaching. The emerging Immigration Bill, which received initial approval from MPs in May 2020, includes a clause which would prevent migrant workers settling in the UK without a pre-agreed job offer.

If approved, migrants will suffer restricted access to the UK employment market – a particular problem for the Care sector which employs approx. 8% EU nationals. Planning and implementing effective recruitment solutions will be critical to ensure we retain access to talent pools during Brexit, without stretching budgets that are already under pressure.

Another way the social care sector can strengthen workforce supply chains is through exploring the solutions available on the market, including group purchasing and solution partner opportunities. Selecting an option that fits the organisation will free up substantial amounts resource– enabling more time and funding to be spent on providing excellent care to residents across the UK.

Difficult challenges sadly lie ahead for the Care sector, but if providers are able to unify the terms and processes for the supply chain whilst embracing the technology available in the market, recruitment processes will become quicker, more efficient, and crucially more transparent on quality and cost.

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