Social care sector loses up to 50,000 staff before winter

The Nuffield Trust has warned that the social care sector in England may have lost up to 50,000 workers across all providers of care in the months leading up to winter.

Providers of home care services could be acutely affected with the number of staff recorded as working in registered providers falling by around 11,000 (2.5 per cent) in the six months to the end of October. This shortfall is fuelling an invisible care crisis in people’s own homes with many unable to access the care they need, increasing care burdens on unpaid carers and impacting hospital discharges.

Figures from experimental data published by the Department of Health and Social Care is likely to substantially underestimate the true fall given not all providers submitted data during that period. Shortages of workers in home care are already having an impact on care with ADASS reporting 1.5million hours of home care unable to be delivered between August and October this year due to lack of staff.

The Nuffield Trust says that the number of staff reported by those providers of social care that submitted data fell by 42,000 in the six months to the end of October 2021. Adjusting the data to account for the fact that a changing number of providers across all care settings submitted data over this period, the fall in staff numbers would be more likely in the region of 50,000 to 70,000 workers.

A reduction of staffing within this range would represent the workforce shrinking between three per cent and four per cent and puts providers, and burnt out staff in a very difficult position ahead of what is expected to be a very difficult winter.

The reasons behind staff leaving in different types of providers vary, for example any impact of the mandatory vaccine policy would at present only impact care home staff. However, if the government’s estimates that another 35,000 home care staff could leave their posts due to mandatory vaccination from 1 April 2022 are accurate, the analysis estimates that as many as 110,000 people could lose out on home care as a result.

Natasha Curry, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Policy, said: “Gaps in workforce data supplied by providers of social care services means there is uncertainty over the scale of the staffing shortages across this fragile sector. But this analysis does paint a bleak picture of a deepening crisis just as over-stretched care staff prepare for what is expected to be one of the sector’s most difficult winters. Unless further and immediate action is taken, it’s likely we will see even more care staff leave the sector this winter at the worst possible time.

“While there has been much attention over winter pressures in hospitals, and even to some degree care homes, a shortage of staff providing care within people’s own homes has been an invisible problem. The home care system is at the point of breaking this winter. There will be far-reaching consequences for people and health and care services if no urgent action is taken. Unfortunately, more people will be unable to access the care they need, more pressure will land on unpaid carers, and problems getting people into appropriate care settings when they come out of hospital will be exacerbated.”

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