Government advisers have warned that well-funded NHS recruitment campaigns are diverting staff away from social care services, and called on ministers to adopt a ‘joined-up approach’ to attracting workers to health and social care.
In a report published yesterday, the Migration Advisory Committee urged the Department of Health and Social Care to develop a “coherent” People Plan for social care which aligned with the health service, as current recruitment policies could be affecting the talent pool available to care employers.
The expert panel, which was asked to review how the end of freedom of movement following Brexit had affected social care, goes on to criticise the DHSC for an imbalance between recruitment in care and the NHS. It stated: “Heavily funded NHS recruitment campaigns can make it difficult for social care employers to hire enough workers.
“DHSC recruiting policies, driven by NHS demand, may also affect the quality or experience of the talent pool available to employers in the care sector, particularly in times of increased demand for care. Such policy-driven recruitment is not yet seen in the wider social care sector.”
The report continued: “We recommend that DHSC and the devolved administrations work towards a joined-up approach when planning and executing recruitment campaigns for the health and social care workforces.
“This may include changes to the job offer, particularly in social care roles, to both attract a larger share of the total workforce and retain the current workforce.”
However, the expert panel added that better social care funding is “ultimately the key” to addressing workforce challenges, recommending the government fund a £10.50 an hour care wage as an immediate starting point and making several recommendations calling on the government to increase pay.
The report said employers struggled to “compete” with the health service’s better wages and more defined career paths, and warned high NHS vacancy rates meant this was set to continue.
One care employer quoted in the MAC report said: “I see the social care sector collapsing unless there is huge investment into the sector so that we can attract people by offering similar pay and conditions to those working in the NHS.
“While there is no parity between the pay and conditions in the NHS and social care we will struggle to recruit from anywhere other than from abroad.”
Figures in the report suggested, on average, a care worker can expect to earn £9.38 an hour, compared to £11.17 for Band 3 Agenda for Change NHS staff with more than two years of experience.
DHSC was approached for comment.