The turnover rate for registered nurses working in adult social care in England is around three times higher than the NHS, a new report has revealed.
Skills for Care has today published its annual State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report, covering the year from April 2022 to March 2023, while also unveiling plans to develop a ‘new and comprehensive’ workforce strategy for the sector.
According to the report, the total workforce in the sector grew by just 1% in the 12-month period, after shrinking for the first time on record during the previous year.
The vacancy rate fell to 9.9%– around 152,000 vacancies on any given day – from 10.6% in the prior year.
Meanwhile, the number of filled registered nurse posts has increased for the first time since records began in 2012/13 and currently stands at 33,000 (up 2%).
However, this is still 17,700 fewer filled posts than in 2012/13 – a decrease of 35%.
The report pointed to potential ‘recruitment and retention problems’ among the registered nursing workforce, noting a current vacancy rate in adult social care of 11.3% or 3,600 vacant posts.
In addition, it flagged that registered nurses also had ‘a relatively high turnover rate’, at 32.6% – equivalent to around 9,300 leavers – in 2022/23.
In comparison, Skills for Care said registered nurses and health visitors in the NHS had a turnover rate of 10.4% as at March 2023.
Across all staff in adult social care in England, the turnover rate was estimated at 28.3% in 2022/23 – down slightly from 28.9% in the previous year.
This means that around 390,000 people left their jobs, with approximately a third of them leaving the sector completely.
According to the report’s projections, 25% more posts (440,000) will be needed in the sector by 2035 to keep pace with the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population.
In response to these trends, Skills for Care has announced that it will be working with ‘a wide range of organisations and people who have a stake in social care’ to develop a new workforce strategy.
Oonagh Smyth, chief executive of Skills for Care, said: ‘We’ll be using the expertise, data, insights and relationships we have developed over the last 20 years to develop that strategy.
‘Given the rich diversity of the sector, any strategy will only be successful if it’s created by the many organisations and people that have a stake in the future of social care, so we’ll be working with a wide range of partners who are willing to embrace and drive the changes we need.’
Royal College of Nursing director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: ‘A new workforce plan to recruit and retain staff needs heavy central government investment.
‘Social care is buckling under the pressure of too many people needing support, longstanding underfunding, and consequently not enough nursing staff.’
She added: ‘The turnover rate for registered nurses exposed in this report is eyewatering – at three times higher than the NHS – and the sector must ask itself the very tough questions about why that is the case. It is unsustainable and unsafe for the people who rely on services.’
Meanwhile, Hugh Alderwick, director of policy at the Health Foundation, said he was encouraged by the development of a new workforce strategy but also added that ‘improving jobs in social care and growing the workforce over the long term depends on sufficient investment and sustained policy action from government’.
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy for NHS Providers, also welcomed the plans for a new workforce strategy and echoed sentiments on government investment.
‘The work of social care staff must be better paid, better valued and better supported to ensure a sustainable, diverse, and skilled workforce for the future,’ she said.
According to David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, while the annual report shows ‘some positive progress’ in the adult care sector, the research makes it clear that there remains ‘much to do’ to secure adequate numbers of staff.
‘A dedicated plan to promote, protect, support and develop careers in social care, alongside parity of pay and terms and conditions with the NHS for comparable roles, both strengthen the wellbeing and recognition of those who work in this essential vocation, and benefit the people who draw on care,’ Mr Fothergill said.