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Dramatic fall seen in nurses working in social care

Worrying fall revealed in report that shows high turnover of younger nurses in the sector a particular cause for concern at a dire time for social care providers
Social care

Worrying fall revealed in report that shows high turnover of younger nurses in the sector a particular cause for concern at a dire time for social care providers

The number of nurses working in social care in England has fallen dramatically in the past decade, with experts warning that the high turnover of younger nurses is a cause for concern.

A report by social care network Skills for Care , published on 11 October, showed that registered nurse vacancies in adult social care were among the highest in the sector at 4,900 – meaning unfilled posts or the vacancy rate stood at almost 15%. Turnover rates in the sector were also

Worrying fall revealed in report that shows high turnover of younger nurses in the sector a particular cause for concern at a dire time for social care providers

The number of nurses working in social care in England has fallen dramatically in the past decade, with experts warning that the high turnover of younger nurses is a cause for concern
Picture: iStock

The number of nurses working in social care in England has fallen dramatically in the past decade, with experts warning that the high turnover of younger nurses is a cause for concern.

A report by social care network Skills for Care, published on 11 October, showed that registered nurse vacancies in adult social care were among the highest in the sector at 4,900 – meaning unfilled posts or the vacancy rate stood at almost 15%. Turnover rates in the sector were also worryingly high at more than 40%.

Staff vacancy rates represent the number of unfilled nursing positions in the sector, whereas turnover rates represent the number of staff leaving compared with the number joining.

Figures are another sign of a social care system on its knees, says charity

Over the past year around 1,600 registered nurses have left the sector with recruitment and retention problems cited as reasons. Nursing was the only profession in adult social care to see such a significant drop.

Around 18,500 registered nurses have left the adult social care workforce in England in the past decade, meaning filled nursing roles in the sector fell by 36%.

The Health Foundation charity said the figures were another sign of a social care system ‘on its knees’. Director of policy Hugh Alderwick said: ‘Care providers are facing a huge struggle to recruit staff and many people are going without the care they need.

‘Sustained underfunding by central government has contributed to unacceptable pay and conditions for people working in the sector, leaving care providers struggling to compete with other employers.’

Staff turnover rates for registered nurses in social care were much higher than elsewhere in the NHS
Picture: Charles Milligan

While nurses in the sector received a 4.2% pay rise – or £1,500 – between 2020-21 and 2021-22, and their pay has increased by as much as 25% since 2011-12, it has not been enough to keep nurses in the sector.

Staff turnover rates for registered nurses in social care were much higher than elsewhere in the NHS at around 44% compared with 11% for nurses and health visitors working in the NHS, the report showed.

Turnover rate shows younger people starting work in social care are not attracted to stay

Turnover rates among younger social care staff were even higher at around 53% among those under 20, suggesting people starting out in social care were not attracted to stay for the entirety of their careers.

‘It may be that younger staff are using jobs as a stopgap while pursuing education, additional training or working while they consider pursuing a career of their choice,’ the report said.

It comes during a dire time for social care providers, with the report also revealing 165,000 vacant posts overall, an increase of 52% since October last year and the highest on record.

It said there might need to be an extra 480,000 people working in social care by 2035 to keep pace with demand.

Care England charity chief executive Martin Green said: ‘There is a desperate and immediate need for significant increases in funding to keep pace with the cost of living crisis, to help retain staff and to help inject both domestic and overseas recruits into the sector ahead of catastrophic failure caused by government underfunding.’


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