Plans to address recruitment and retention within the NHS must not come at the expense of ‘exacerbating’ workforce shortages within the social care sector, NHS England has pledged.
In its newly-published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, NHS England noted challenges in the social care sector, including the decline in the number of nurses and pay inequity.
It highlighted the 165,000 vacant posts in adult social care in England and pointed to data which suggested 44% of nurses left their role within the sector in 2021/22.
But the blueprint is specifically focused on recruiting, retaining and reforming the NHS workforce, with commitments to increase nurse training places and explore changes to nurse education requirements.
While increasing the number of staff working in direct entry roles is ‘a critical part’ of the NHS workforce plan, NHS England stressed ‘this should not come at the expense of exacerbating workforce shortages that exist elsewhere in the social care sector’.
Chief executive of the National Care Forum, Professor Vic Rayner, echoed this sentiment and told Nursing in Practice: ‘It is vital that moves to shore up the health service do not come at a price for social care.’
She stressed that pressures on both sectors would ‘continue to grow in years to come’ and that this was why it was ‘so disappointing that not only is there not an equivalent workforce plan for social care, but absolutely no commitment for a funded equivalent to appear’.
‘Without a proper examination and strategic commitment to shape and form a workforce that will serve all the community health and care needs, with comparable pay, terms and conditions, we risk finding ourselves forever stuck in a situation where the local staffing needs of the health sector are met by destabilising retention and recruitment in social care,’ added Professor Rayner.
The National Care Forum continues to call on the government to develop a long-term workforce plan for adult social care and to pay those working in care ‘at a rate according to their skills and competences determined by an independent review body’.
In addition, it wants to see the introduction of a professional registration for all adult social care workers and a professional body established to represent them.
The Department of Health and Social Care was contacted for a response.