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19th Sep, 2021

Helen Clark
Helen Clark
Job Title
Divisional Director - Health & Care

Over the last year and a half, we have seen an increase in reports surrounding the unprecedented low levels of staff in the health and care sector and the toll this has taken on the physical and mental wellbeing of care workers, due to Brexit and Covid-19.

According to Workforce Intelligence national figures, in 2019/20 around 250,000 jobs in adult social care were held by people of a non-British nationality, with on average the sector having a greater reliance on non-EU workers. However, due to Brexit, we saw an unexpected departure of thousands of EU nationals who were working in care in the UK, causing the first sign of trouble for the industry.

Similarly, not long after, health and care professionals were under immense pressure as a result of the pandemic. This both exacerbated the low staffing issues due to an uplift in sickness and absence rates, but also took an incredible toll on the workforce’s mental and physical wellbeing. This combined with the loss of carers as a result of Brexit meant those still working in the industry were working longer hours to fill the gaps.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute survey found 56% of care home nurses reported that they felt worse than normal in terms of both their mental and physical wellbeing during the global pandemic.

Along with this, the sector is facing another potential loss of carers because of the latest policy introduced by the DHSC (Department of Health & Social Care). Their new policy states that all those working in CQC registered adult care homes in England must be double jabbed with two Covid vaccination doses from November 2021, unless they can provide proof that they are medically exempt.

In July 2021 it was reported that 47% of English care homes for the elderly have more than a fifth of staff yet to take up the vaccine, despite staff at all eligible homes having been offered them.

Care providers have warned that by making vaccines compulsory for all care staff, they might run the risk of losing hundreds of more carers who don’t feel comfortable having a Covid vaccination. This may result in a migration of workers into other areas of the care sector where vaccinations aren’t mandatory.

The latest proposal has also created a divide within the health and care community. At present, the policy is only enforced on staff working in care homes and not to National Health Service workers or those in the community care sector.

With the social care sector already in a vulnerable position, and the workforce and providers reaching their limits, this policy shift has caused further uncertainty around the future of care organisations, carers, and the quality of adult care.

As the sector is already struggling to recruit high-quality carers, it’s important for care providers to focus on methods of retaining and attracting the best talent possible to help revive the industry. This involves offering the best possible salaries, benefits, and career development packages – people need a reason to come into the sector, and without these things, the struggle for carers will continue. Many workers from the care sector have migrated already into new areas, having felt the pressures of the role during the pandemic, without the necessary level of remuneration to reward appropriately for the valued work that they do.

Care providers need to address the vaccine situation head-on and seek advice from their HR and legal teams to ensure the policy is implemented correctly and staff receive the correct advice and guidance.

The most recent update for the health and care sector is the announcement of an extra tax which will be used to fund social care in England and help the NHS recover after the pandemic. This new Health and Social Care Levy will be used to help reform the social care sector, which I hope in turn will mean more training, resources, and staff. If done correctly, I thoroughly hope the levy will level up the playing field when it comes to the sector – bringing with it a new, exciting time to join the industry which to date has struggled and has often been seen as the underdog in the funding stakes to the N.H.S.

If you are a health and care worker looking for a new career opportunity or are recruiting for a healthcare candidate to join your team, Reed can help. Contact your nearest Reed office today.