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Caring about social care…

Carolyn Scott

The Summer print edition of Nursing in Practice examines social care in England. Editor Carolyn Scott considers whether the sector can turn around nurse shortages. 

There’s no debating the value of the social care sector. We all need it to operate effectively, to provide good care for vulnerable people and to avoid patients being stuck in hospital because there’s nowhere to discharge them to. But are we caring enough about the ongoing challenges facing social care?

The sector has long been troubled by funding, recruitment and retention issues. There are now alarm bells warning that nursing care is being lost, as providers, further weakened by the pandemic, struggle to attract staff.  

Earlier this year, a study into the sector found that a shortage of registered nurses is impacting care homes to the point where many are forced to consider withdrawing nursing care altogether.

Providers in England say they are being put in this position because a 5% increase for NHS-funded nursing care for 2023/24 signally fails to keep pace with rising costs.  Skilled staff find they can earn more for far less demanding jobs elsewhere. Some might argue this is how business works in a free market but the reality is our most vulnerable are paying the price for politicians’ broken promises to ‘fix’ the social care system.  

Covid shone a particularly harsh spotlight on care homes, which were operating under the most difficult of circumstances. 

Yet analysis from UCL and Warwick Business School suggests that during Covid, little of the emergency funding provided to care homes found its way to frontline staff, who faced enormous workloads and stress. In fact, conditions and support for staff may have been reduced, it found. 

If we expect the sector to look after an ageing population, it needs to become a place where the best nurses, and other staff, want to work. 

In our Summer issue, we spoke to England’s first chief nurse for adult social care Professor Deborah Sturdy, and others, about these challenges.  She is flying the flag high for positive change and has kickstarted a rebrand of social care as a rewarding and challenging place, with great career opportunities for more people. 

Rather than having to withdraw services, the sector needs to attract the best nurses to roles Professor Sturdy says offer flexibility, autonomy and the chance to help ‘turn the tide’ towards high-quality provision. 

Covid posed unique problems for social care but it also highlighted its status as a sector that cares for its patients like no other.  The current situation presents a complex puzzle but, as our cover story shows, there are signs of positive change. Let’s all care about adult social care.

Carolyn Scott is editor of Nursing in Practice. Follow her on Twitter


Get in touch? We are keen to hear about the experiences of nurses working within primary care. Please contact her at [email protected]

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