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Nurse jobs in care sector disappear as employers struggle to retain staff

Skills for Care report suggests dilution of skills mix as nursing assistants replace nurses in social care

Skills for Care report suggests dilution of skills mix as nursing assistants replace nurses in social care


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The number of nursing jobs in adult social care has shrunk by 9,500 in England since 2012.

Some employers may be hoping to fill nursing gaps by hiring 'nursing assistants', another term for healthcare assistant, according to a new report.

Data in the Skills for Care report show there were an estimated 42,000 nurse jobs in the adult social care sector in England in 2017, compared to 51,500 in 2012.

Subsituting unregistered for registered staff

The government-commissioned report said while the loss of nursing jobs could be the result of recruitment and retention difficulties, there was anecdotal evidence some organisations were creating nursing assistant positions to take on tasks previously carried out by registered staff. 

Nurse posts also showed the highest vacancy rate – at 12.3% – of all adult social care jobs, according to the report. This compares to an 8% vacancy rate across the sector.

High turnover

The report also revealed nurses in the sector had a turnover rate of 32.4% in the past 12 months, equivalent to around 11,500 leavers.

A large proportion of turnover was a result of staff leaving shortly after joining, the report found. 

Skills for Care estimated 18% (7,500) of nurses in the adult social care workforce were on zero-hours contracts in 2017-18. In terms of demographics, the proportion of nurses from the EU in care homes went up from 8% in 2012/13 to 17% in 2017/18. In comparison, the proportion of nurses outside the EU fell over the same period from 32% in 2012/13 to 19% in 2017/18.

The Nuffield Trust's think tank's director of policy Candace Imison, said: ‘Today's figures show social care is struggling even more to get the workers needed to provide vital services, with turnover and vacancy rates continuing to rise.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are working to ensure the system is able to meet the demands of our growing ageing population and will soon launch a recruitment campaign to raise the profile of the sector.

'In the autumn, we'll set out our plans to reform the social care system to make it sustainable for the future.’


Related material

Skills for Care report: The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England


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