Cost of living crisis and workforce pressures risks ‘unfair care’, says CQC

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC’s) annual assessment of the state of health and adult social care in England, which looks at the quality of care over the past year, highlights that a combination of the cost-of-living crisis and workforce pressures risks ‘unfair care’ for many people.

The report, released today, states:

"Adult social care providers are facing increased running costs, including food and electricity, with some struggling to pay their staff a wage in line with inflation, which affects recruitment and retention. This is likely to have an impact on people, both in the quality of care they receive and in providers’ ability to re-invest in care homes – data from CQC’s Market Oversight scheme shows that care home profitability remains at historically low levels.

"Local authority budgets have failed to keep pace with rising costs and the increase in the number of people needing care. As local authority funded adult social care places are often less profitable, there is the risk that people who live in more deprived areas, and are more likely to receive local authority funded care, may not be able to get the care they need."

Ian Trenholm, CQC’s Chief Executive, said:

“The combination of the cost-of-living crisis and workforce challenges risks leading to unfair care, with those who can afford to pay for treatment doing so, and those who can’t facing longer waits and reduced access. And the impact of unresolved industrial action on people can’t be ignored – it’s crucial that both parties work towards an agreement so strikes do not continue into the winter, when disruption will have to be managed alongside increased demand for urgent care and staff sickness.

“Of course, workforce challenges for the health and social care sector long pre-date the current industrial action. The publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce plan has been a positive step but implementation will be challenging – particularly without a social care workforce strategy to sit alongside it. We continue to call for a national workforce strategy that raises the status of the adult social care workforce and ensures that career progression, pay and rewards attract and retain the right professional staff in the right numbers. It is encouraging that Skills for Care has made this an area of focus.

“We remain concerned that some people are more likely to have a poorer experience of care. To better understand barriers to equality, we’ve commissioned research with midwives from ethnic minority groups, and with people from ethnic minority groups with long-term conditions. We’ve also worked with our expert advisory group for autistic people and people with a learning disability to develop a clearer and stronger position on the use of restrictive practice – we expect all providers to recognise restrictive practice and to actively work to reduce its use."

Responding to the report, David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Everyone should be able to access the care and support they need and not be left waiting or getting stuck in the system.

“As this important report highlights yet again, social care needs a dedicated workforce plan to address the recruitment and retention crisis, especially as we approach winter, including action on staff pay, conditions, skills, training and development.

“Immediate investment is needed in the Autumn Statement to end the gridlock, address unmet and under-met need and ensure timely access to social care for all who need it, not just those who are able to afford it.”

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