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Skeleton social care staffing risks patient safety, NHS leaders warn

Skeleton staffing in social care will continue to risk patient safety, further exacerbate waiting times, and drive demand for health services ever higher, health leaders have warned in a new report.

System on a cliff edge: addressing challenges in social care capacity finds that more than nine in 10 NHS leaders believe there is a current social care workforce crisis in their area which they expect will get worse this winter.

Concerned for patient safety, more than four in five respondents to the report warn that the absence of care packages for people to be able to return home or be moved into a care home is the main reason why medically fit patients are stuck in hospital longer than they should be.

Almost all NHS leaders say that the most impactful solution would be better pay for social care staff and want the Government to increase investment in social care as a priority.

They have called for Government to immediately implement a national care worker minimum wage of £10.50 an hour.

They warned that without an increase above the hourly wage seen across many other industries, including that paid to staff working in supermarkets and across retail, as well as the NHS itself, the social care sector in England will continue to haemorrhage staff.

Currently, 1.4 million older people are currently estimated to have an unmet need for social care, yet despite this there have been dramatic falls in spending on social care in England, with figures showing a 12 per cent decrease per person over the decade to 2018/19.

Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said: “The Government must understand that health and social care are two interdependent systems and social care needs immediate extra funding to improve pay and conditions and then a long-term workforce strategy that aligns with the NHS workforce plan. If the Government fails to focus on the social care workforce, the impact on the NHS will be catastrophic”.

Professor Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum, added: “When healthcare and social care leaders stand side by side to urge the Government to increase investment in care services and boost wages for care workers, then it really is time to listen.”   

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