The number of social care staff fell by 42,000 in the six months leading up to the end of October this year, according to the Nuffield Trust.
The health think tank’s analysis of experimental Department of Health and Social Care data found the number of staff reported by social care providers fell from 1,584,535 in the week ending 27 April to 1,542,590 in the week ending 26 October.
But it noted the actual reduction could be around 50,000 to 70,000 workers, which would represent 3% to 4% of the workforce, because not all providers submitted data during the six-month period.
The Nuffield Trust said the findings show a ‘deepening crisis’ in staffing, which is ‘heaping pressure onto burnt out existing staff’ and ‘restricting access to care’ ahead of a ‘very challenging winter’.
The reasons social care staff have left varies, it found. For example, the Government’s mandatory vaccination policy currently only impacts care home staff after it was introduced on 11 November, with providers raising fears they will lose 8% of workers because of the rule.
However, the rule will be expanded to the wider health and social care workforce from April 2022. The Government’s own estimates predict that around 126,000 frontline health and social care staff in England could risk losing their jobs after refusing to have mandatory vaccinations.
The think tank also highlighted the ‘invisible care crisis’ in homecare services, which the analysis showed has lost around 11,000 staff or 2.5% of its workforce. This shortage has impacted the care people can access and hospital discharges, as well as increased the burden on unpaid carers, it said.
Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy Natasha Curry warned it is likely more staff will leave the sector this winter, ‘at the worse possible time’, unless ‘further and immediate action is taken’.
She continued: ‘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.’