Social work association criticises NHS long-term workforce plan

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has criticised the NHS workforce plan for ignoring the needs of social work.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan was published at the end of last month with a variety of components, including doubling medical and adult nurse training places and increasing GP training places by 50 percent.

The plan also included targets for more staff in mental health, community and primary care roles.

But the BASW said that the ‘glaring’ omission of any mention of social work in the plan ‘perpetuates the disheartening sense that social work is simply not considered when it comes to discussions and planning in health and social care services’.

‘Social work should be recognised and valued for the significant contributions it makes towards holistic patient care and the overall well-being of individuals and communities,’ the BASW added.

The professional body said it had engaged with its members as part of Health Education England’s call for evidence two years ago as part of its long-term workforce planning – which led to last month’s announcements.

Angie Button, chair of the BASW England social workers in health thematic group, said: ‘It is disappointing to see the voice of social work and the valuable contribution social workers make in individuals lives continue to be unrecognised in the NHS workforce plan, given the increasing numbers of social workers employed directly by NHS organisations.

‘Furthermore, we firmly believe that the government, who are intending to deliver this plan, cannot be taken seriously unless it considers the demands of the striking workers in the NHS. The concerns and needs of these dedicated professionals should be addressed with the utmost urgency and respect. Only by acknowledging and valuing the voices of those on the frontline can we hope to create a sustainable and effective care and health workforce where everyone feels valued.

‘While we support the concept of a long-term strategy for the health and care workforce, we emphasise that any plan must incorporate the voices of all those who work in and across health and social care services. Social workers play an indispensable role in supporting individuals, families, and communities to navigate complex social issues, safeguard vulnerable people, and ensure equitable access to services whilst human rights are upheld. Excluding their perspectives and expertise undermines the effectiveness of any long-term workforce plan.

‘As a regulated profession, social work takes places in a variety of contexts including and increasingly within health settings. It is vital that this is recognised in order for social workers fulfil and provide this invaluable and complex role.

‘BASW England remain committed to championing and advocating for a more valued, better supported, and funded social work workforce. We will continue to campaign tirelessly on behalf of our members, highlighting the crucial role of social work in the health and social care sector. We call on the government and relevant stakeholders to recognise the importance of social work and actively involve social workers in shaping and implementing any plans to ensure a more inclusive and effective health and social care service for all.’


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