Disparities in pay, training and development within multidisciplinary teams across the NHS and social care are damaging staff retention in community care, a report has found.
The report into community staffing shortages, published by NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, highlighted that one community provider said ‘significant differences’ in pay between team members has worsened since the Agenda for Change 2022/23 pay uplift was confirmed.
It called on different community providers to share best practice, collaborate and focus more on supporting staff development and progression to tackle the staffing ‘crisis’.
But it stressed that ‘national support and action is also needed’, including better national workforce planning and funding, support to expand the development of new roles and alternative training routes, and support to scale up collaboration.
Other solutions for staff retention proposed by the report includes the importance of ‘national guidance to support the development of blended health and care roles’ that span NHS and social care services, with more support needed from national bodies such as the NMC and NHSE to support the cross-sector working that community care so often requires.
Siobhan Melia, chair of the Community Network hosted by NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Having staff from primary care, community services and social care working collaboratively to deliver care but facing significant differences in pay, terms and conditions – as well as training and development opportunities – is a sizeable barrier.’
She added: ‘Although not insurmountable at a local level, at worst, this can have a negative impact on morale and retention across the team as a whole. At best, it can create considerable complexity for local leaders to navigate equitably with staff. This is a challenge that needs to be overcome with government support for long-term, fully funded workforce planning for health and care.’
The report also found that ‘the supply of community staff has not kept up with increases in demand’, with one provider saying they are experiencing vacancy rates of 25% in health visitor roles, although there is no publicly available NHS vacancy data for community roles.
The worst staff shortages were in specialist services such as podiatry, and children’s and young people’s speech and language therapy. Community care providers fear that it will be ‘difficult to address these backlogs within existing workforce capacity’.
This comes as the latest official NHS data shows the overall number of full-time equivalent community nurses stood at 37,649 in April, compared to 40,537 in April 2012.
A recent NHS Providers survey of community care leaders in the NHS found that 98% think that workforce shortages in community care will slow down the backlog recovery, while 97% said that shortages were having a ‘a serious and detrimental impact on services’.
While NHS Providers claims that the recent scrapping of the BTEC courses in health and social care will ‘put at risk an important health staffing pipeline that allows thousands of potential nursing and midwifery recruits to join degree courses each year’, it also states that ‘expanding and developing new roles will attract more staff into the community sector’.
Furthermore, continuing to develop good connections with the higher education sector would also improve recruitment into social care and staff retention, the report claimed.