More than 600,000 extra social care staff needed, research predicts

Anita Charlesworth, The Health Foundation’s director of research and REAL Centre

Up to 627,000 extra social care staff will be needed by 2030/31 to improve services and meet demand, research from The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre has concluded.

This would represent 53% growth over the next decade and four times greater than the increases of the last ten years.

Alongside this, an extra 488,000 healthcare staff will be needed to meet demand pressures and recover from the pandemic. This is equivalent to a 40% increase in the health workforce, double the growth seen in the last decade.

The scale of the challenge meant investment in training and recruitment, both domestically and internationally was needed, the foundation said.

It said it also meant ensuring staff salaries, terms and conditions were competitive compared to other work, and that flexible working, progression and career opportunities were all available to encourage people to join the profession and existing workers to stay.

The projected gap in the workforce is in addition to current vacancies across the health and care system – with the NHS 94,000 short of staff and social care at 112,000.

‘If the government doesn’t take action now to invest in the workforce the NHS and social care system are likely to face a decade of increasing staff shortages,’ said Anita Charlesworth, The Health Foundation’s director of research and REAL Centre said:

She said workforce shortages were the biggest risk to post pandemic recovery. ‘Despite the more immediate challenges posed by Covid-19, the government must not lose sight of the underlying demand and cost pressures facing the NHS and social care over the long term and the need to plan better to increase the workforce to meet this demand,’ Charlesworth said.

As part of its strategy announced last month, the government said it would be investing £500m in measures over three years to support the social care workforce.

This included providing support in professionalising and developing the workforce and introducing reforms to improve recruitment and support for social care. Further details are due to be set out in an upcoming white paper.