On the 25th July 2022, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee published a report, titled "Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care". The opening sentence of the report gets straight to the severity of the situation: “the National Health Service and the social care sector are facing the greatest workforce crisis in their history”. It’s no secret amongst the British public that the NHS is struggling, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation more desperate.
This report highlights exactly where the problems lie, and how the Government is failing to protect the NHS and the social care sector from further problems.
The NHS is facing a vicious cycle, in which the impact of current pressures on mental health is leading to staff needing more time off, or even to leaving their roles. Which in turn, increases the pressure for those remaining. The report states that, in order to stop this cycle continuing, there needs to be more focus on the wellbeing and working conditions of staff. The suggestions include more flexible working, affordable and flexible childcare, and workplace facilities such as free parking, hot food and drinks, places to rest, etc. The report also highlights that racism and sexism is still rife in the working culture of the NHS, and this needs to be stopped.
The report calls for more transparent and frequent reports with real data that can outline and forecast the extent of the crisis. The current expectation of Framework 15 (the long-term strategic framework for the health and social care workforce) to not contain any numbers will not provide enough information to prevent things from worsening. The report states that the Government “must publish the full report of the NHS workforce strategy complete with gap analysis and workforce projections for the next five, 10, and 15 years for each profession by the end of 2022”.
Health and social care:
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists submitted written evidence to outline this crisis within the world of SLT. They too emphasised the need for increased staff wellbeing. Explaining that the pressure from the NHS to complete processes rather than focus on outcomes is reducing job satisfaction. Through not allowing SLTs to support their patients in the best way for them.
The RCSLT’s evidence shows that the demand for speech and language therapy, which was already a big problem, has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. They suggest that the staff shortages should be approached in three ways:
- Recruiting enough staff from the UK and internationally through the mutual recognition agreement (MRA). International SLTs should be given incentives by the Government such as reduced financial and administrative barriers to work in the UK.
- Allowing current staff to progress through CPD and training. The Government should provide financial support for the cost of any training and travel expenses to ensure equal opportunities.
- Fully understanding the reasons for staff deciding to leave the NHS and social care sector.
Although there has been an increase in the number of SLT students, there are still not enough, and these students will not graduate in time to fix the current crisis. The RCSLT has introduced SLT apprenticeships, but they require more financial support from the Government.
Finally the RCSLT made two interesting points in their evidence that did not seem to be mentioned in the report. The first being that the number of SLTs working outside the NHS is not taken into account in these reports. Therefore, they do not give a clear picture of the current issues and how they can be addressed. For example, it cannot be assumed that every, or even the majority, of current SLT students will work solely for the NHS for the rest of their career.
Secondly, the RCSLT states that it is essential that every Integrated Care Board has an allied health professional Director so that each patient’s needs can be fully taken into account for them to receive the best continuity of care.
The Government’s response is due on the 25th September 2022. We can only hope that the evidence that has been submitted will be enough to convince them that something needs to be done to save our NHS and social care sector before it’s too late.
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Blog by Ellie Preston-Jones