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Staff shortages threaten the safety of health and care services

What other evidence does the government need to reverse the damaging recruitment policies?, asks Europe’s largest live-in care provider.

‘It is hard to understand why the government remains so committed to implementing immigration policies that have created recruitment barriers and further damaged an already struggling care sector,’ said Paula Beaney, Quality Assurance Director at Promedica24.

On June 8, the Health and Social Care Committee published its findings on the wellbeing of the NHS workforce and staffing shortages across the sector.

The report warns that the high level of unfilled vacancies imposes enormous pressure on existing staff with exhausting working conditions causing professional burnout.

The committee also pointed out that there is a current lack of accurate workforce planning, which should model how many staff the sector needs for the next five to ten years. All these factors pose a threat to the effective functioning of the healthcare sector, putting both patient and staff safety at risk.

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, there were already approximately 85,000 vacancies in the NHS in England and more than 112,000 in adult social care, with 78% of all social care jobs being in the private sector.

Covid-19 has exacerbated those pre-pandemic shortages, putting at risk the health and wellbeing of millions of people who rely on care services daily, especially those who are older or vulnerable.

Since the publication of the report, several government officials have expressed their concerns about workforce shortages in the health and care sector; and Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary, said that unless the government and NHS made changes to maintain full staffing levels, the problem would continue to grow for years.

However, less than a year ago, new post-Brexit immigration rules for EU citizens were introduced. These regulations have made it virtually impossible for care providers to recruit a workforce that is experienced and immediately available from the EU.

Although, since then, some exceptions have been made for care managers and senior workers, the changes only apply in a small minority of cases and do not fix the issue.

a man holds his head while sitting on a sofa

At the same time, there are nearly no new requirements for agricultural EU workers to work in the UK for up to six months, and the cost of their visas are significantly lower than those required for care workers.

Paula Beaney, quality assurance director at Promedica24, commented: ‘The report is extremely unsettling, but sadly, none of its findings has come as a surprise to us.

‘For a long time now, Promedica24 has been warning that the care sector is struggling to meet growing demand and the shortage of an available and experienced workforce will lead to the deterioration in the quality of care that people receive.

‘It is hard to understand why the government remains so committed to implementing immigration policies that have created recruitment barriers and further damaged an already struggling care sector.

‘This is especially the case since, as highlighted in the report, the Government lacks a mechanism to adequately forecast mid and long-term future workforce needs, which is one of the factors that has led to current shortages across the sector.

‘What other evidence does the Government need to reverse harmful policies which have contributed to the increase in staffing shortages in the health and social care sectors?

‘The Home Office continues to promote the idea that unemployed UK residents can easily fill all the vacancies. However, the reality is that there are currently not, in the UK, enough suitable people who want to work in the care sector to meet the growing demand.

‘It takes a special type of person with certain personality traits, experience and lengthy training to be able to adequately secure the physical and emotional needs of those most vulnerable, such as people living with dementia, Parkinson’s, mental or mobility impairments and various forms of cancer.

‘After the challenges of last year, the demand for tailored live-in care services has increased significantly as more and more people look for alternative solutions to residential care homes. Since 2020, Promedica24 has multiplied its efforts to recruit from within the UK.

‘However, although over the last six months we have trained and hired close to 150 new care workers, this is only a drop in the ocean of what we require to serve all of those who need our help.’

Photo Credit – Nik Shuliahin

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