In December 2017, a draft document outlining the need for a workforce strategy across the UK and reviewing the changes across the past five years was published. ‘Facing the facts, Shaping the future’ was led by HEE (Health Education England) but was a product of the whole national system including NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, and the Department of Health. The document also looks ahead to 2027 and the requirements that the time may bring.
Why was this draft workforce strategy produced?
As explained in the document itself, “Social care and health together make up the largest workforce in the country, by comprising 13% of all jobs, yet we have not had a national strategy for recruiting, training and supporting them for over two decades.”
The aim is to now review the needs of the workforce and consider the impact of how our current and future workforce shape the future of health and social care in the country. A consultation was launched at the same time as publication to further inform the strategy and the finalised strategy will be published in July.
With over 1.45 million staff working in adult social care in England which is more than the number that work in the NHS. 78% of this workforce are recruited by private or voluntary organisations with the remaining in the NHS, local authorities or employed as direct payment recipients.
What does the future hold?
By 2025, unconstrained demand for lower skilled direct care staff is likely to increase by 12% which in plain numbers is around 120,000 more jobs. It has also been suggested by Skills for Care that there may be an overall increase of 500,000 jobs needed by 2030. So what is causing this demand?
An ageing population combined with more individuals that have long-term conditions is putting pressure on the supply of staffing to this sector. With the current level of vacancies already pretty high at around 88,000, it is clear to see that current and future staffing models will need to be able to cope better with demand.
The challenges and the solutions.
Turnover in this sector is 25% which is pretty high. 347,000 staff were leaving their roles during 2016/17 and 33% were leaving the sector altogether which signifies massive retention concerns.
The publication highlights two key challenges for recruitment and retention in this field, which are training and development and overseas staff. With adult social care roles not requiring any formal social care qualifications and many employees not having access to training, the quality of care they are able to provide may not be as high as it can be.
A significant proportion of the workforce (18%) are non-UK nationals which raises the questions - are we nurturing the talent available on our doorstep fully and what can we do to improve retention of quality staff?
The draft workforce strategy recommends that employers take a values based recruitment approach to minimise the number of individuals leaving the social care sector to join competing sectors such as retail, catering and hospitality which are perceived to be more ‘physically and emotionally demanding’. Skills for Care are a believer in a values based strategy and have said that the employers this method of recruitment have a lower turnover rate than average for the sector.
The other potential issue with retaining social care employees is the lack of clarity when it comes to career progression. Due to each employer labelling job titles and roles differently, it is increasingly tougher for employees to see a clear career pathway set out for them, in comparison to competing sectors which may offer simpler progression routes.
The publication pays particular focus to continuous professional development too stating “The four key challenges to retention start with pay and reward. Relative low pay, resulting from industry structure, low productivity and funding issues, is associated with low levels of learning and development, and high turnover”.
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