Trouble on the eve of the pandemic: Nuffield Trust response to Skills for Care report

Nina Hemmings responds to the 'State of the adult social care workforce report' from Skills for Care.

Press release

Published: 21/10/2020

Responding to the State of the adult social care workforce report from Skills for Care (covering England), Nuffield Trust researcher Nina Hemmings said:

“Today’s workforce figures point to a system in serious trouble on the eve of the pandemic. Turnover has continued to climb up to 30.4%, equivalent to 430,000 people leaving their jobs in 2019/20. The churn was especially acute among nurses, at 41% in social care compared to 9% in the NHS.  

“Early data from the period of the coronavirus outbreak suggests pressure on staff has only intensified: sickness rates have nearly tripled since the pandemic began. Given the absolutely crucial role we have seen these workers play during Covid-19, they must be better supported in their health and wellbeing.

“For the first time in eight years, the vacancy rate for the workforce across England has fallen slightly from 7.6% to 7.3%. But demand for care still far outstrips supply – we have 112,000 unfilled jobs at any given time.  

“Relying on a recession to fill staff shortages is not a long-term national strategy. The report says it sees no sign of increased recruitment since the pandemic started. Nuffield Trust research shows we need tens of thousands of care workers immediately [1] and a migration system that works for frontline care workers [2] – currently we have neither.  

“We haven’t had a strategy for social care staffing for more than a decade. Along with meeting its overdue promise to sort out the failing and unfair funding and organisational models, the government also needs a plan to make sure any new system has enough workers to actually provide the care people need.”

Notes to editors

1.    Our briefing last year, Social care: the action we need, laid out the full workforce shortage in the social care sector, and warned that providing basic care to those in need would require an additional 50,000 staff on top of existing gaps.

2.    Our analysis shows that migrants will be barred from moving to the UK to take up the vast majority of social care roles once the planned new rules come in after the Brexit transition period.

3.    The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.