Aug 6, 2023

Overcoming Skill Challenges: Strategies for Health and Social Care in the UK

The healthcare industry faces a shortage of skilled workers, putting a strain on patient care. Care Quality Commission (CQC) forecasts show that an additional 1.22 million social care workers will be needed between 2016 and 2036. More conservative estimates are that a 31% increase in the social care workforce, equating to 500,000 jobs, would be required by 2030 to meet current demand. The CQC also estimates that around 11.5% of care homes do not have a registered manager in place.

With vacancies outnumbering available skilled healthcare professionals, roles attract a broader range of applicants, typically of a lower skill set. Care work is not something anyone can do – it takes a particular type of person. In many cases, people taking care of jobs quickly realise they aren’t cut out for it, creating high staff turnover and unplanned absences. CQC figures show that at 2016-17 the care workforce in England comprised 1.34 million jobs with a turnover rate of 27.8%. Turnover was exceptionally high for care workers (33.8%) and registered nurses (32.1%). In the same year, the proportion of vacancies in care was 6.6%, significantly above the UK average of between 2.5% and 2.7%.

Other key HR challenges include the amount of paperwork and administrative burden on care homes. Routine tasks that do not require a specialist skillset take longer to complete, putting additional strain on overworked healthcare employees and affecting the level of care they can provide.

Key factors drove the long-term staff shortage. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union significantly reduced the talent pool, and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the availability of foreign nurses to take jobs in UK care homes. According to the CQC, there was a sharp decline in new EU nurse registrants following Brexit, from a high of 1,304 in July 2016 to just 46 in April 2017.

Furthermore, NHS bursaries for new nursing students were abolished in August 2017, leading to a 23% fall in applications by students in England to nursing and midwifery courses at British universities. This has led to further concerns about the future care home workforce, with funding cuts leading to a 44% drop in the number of full-time equivalent district nurses between 2010 and 2017. Despite this, there was a 6% drop in new nursing registrations in 2017/18 coupled with a 21% rise in de-registrations.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, safeguarding employees’ mental health has overtaken the skills shortage as the biggest challenge for HR leaders in health and social care. In a recent study by cloud-based HR and payroll software provider Moonworkers, which surveyed 158 senior HR professionals, 54% of the respondents reported employee mental health support as the biggest challenge, followed by staff development (41%), shortage of labour (39%), lack of skilled talent (37%), and increasing paperwork (33%).

To overcome these challenges, almost half (46%) of those surveyed invest more in staff training and development, with 36% investing in technology and 37% reorganising shift patterns in the wake of the crisis. In addition, 61% of respondents reported that investing in staff training and development has had the most positive impact amongst employees.

The only way to operate any care organisation with minimal HR issues is to employ and reward the best staff members. Identify skilled healthcare professionals who are passionate about their work, know they’re in the right job, and care about residents and the business’s goals. To achieve this, organisations need careful recruitment practices, with a water-tight hiring and onboarding process to deliver only the best candidates. This requires investment in three core areas: HR, social outreach, and technology.

Automate the 52 week average holiday pay

Read more

HR teams are just as important as skilled care work, with the best HR people most qualified to negate challenges around recruitment and people management – and care organisations should never stop recruiting. Taking on the right people goes back to some basics of good personnel practice: creating standardised interview procedures, using sensible and consistent scoring of candidates, testing for behaviour rather than competence, and carefully monitoring recruitment performance. It also involves building and maintaining relationships with local job centres and sector-based work academies, offering visits to the home, and even ‘taster shifts’ to potential applicants.

Some care homes have had success with group selection methods as a more cost-effective way of recruiting. It’s also argued that group selection provides a more genuine reflection of candidates instead of being grilled by a panel of interviewers. Orchard Care, for example, conducted four group interview sessions over 14 hours versus 75 hours of individual face-to-face interviews.

Investment in social outreach helps take your brand to a bigger audience, widening your talent pool and access to potential applicants. Recruiting via the internet is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but critical in opening up worldwide possibilities. Paradoxically, most recruitment to care assistant roles are typically from a care home’s immediate neighbourhood, so cultivating positive coverage in local media is valuable in attracting staff and residents.

Investment in technology ensures care organisations can maintain a better connection with remote healthcare workers who can feel isolated, reducing job satisfaction. Automation of routine tasks also significantly reduces the monotony of repetitive and time-consuming paperwork for all healthcare employees whilst helping implement new strategies to improve work-life balance and sustain motivation, such as flexible working and other workplace initiatives.

Gateshead-based care home company Helen McArdle Care is family-run and says ‘caring for staff with a personal touch’ enables it to retain staff and rehire healthcare employees who had left for alternative employment. In addition, the business hosts an annual family fun day, where staff bring their relatives to work. Helen McArdle Care also empowers its managers hearing of a staff member suffering hardship or other personal problems to offer the appropriate support – though this is a policy all care homes should adopt.

Another HR challenge for the healthcare industry is attracting the best staff. There is a lack of sector-based academies with the right qualifications to help the team earn better pay. Only half of those surveyed by Moonworkers (53%) said the Government's national recruitment campaign helps them attract social care workers to their care home.

More needs to be done to attract more people into health and social care. Only by improving the quality of training and pay rates and adopting innovative approaches to care home management will the healthcare sector become more attractive and start to plug the skills gap against a backdrop of continued disruption due to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Give us a shot.

Choose Moonworkers online payroll services for professional, reliable, and knowledgeable service.
We have been using Moonworkers for quite some time and compared to other software in the market, we found it very simple to use and excellent. Moreover, the customer service is great.
Shabir D.

Continue reading

Revolutionise your payroll.