Brexit and the social care staffing crisis

Charles Armitage, CEO of Florence, highlights what nursing and care home managers need to be mindful of during Brexit uncertainty and the social care staffing crisis

It’s April 2019 – and although the UK was set to leave the European Union on 29 March, we’re still here – for now. Whatever the final outcome around Brexit may be, the uncertainty is set to remain for the foreseeable as the country feels its way through these turbulent times.

Many of us feel a bit helpless watching Brexit play out in the corridors of power. However, the reality on the ground is that there is a very real impact to consider when it comes to staffing for the care sector. Nursing and care home managers are well aware that they can’t afford to rest on their laurels where staffing is concerned. Recruiting and retaining quality staff to tight budgets is one of the single most challenging issues they face in their day to day.

So, what do nursing and care home managers need to be mindful of and what steps can they take to manage the fallout around Brexit?

Widening workforce gaps

We all know the UK’s population is ageing yet more nurses are leaving the profession than joining. Alongside these worrying facts, many of the country’s existing health and social care professionals – an estimated 95,000 (7%) of the 1.3 million workers in England’s adult care sector – hail from other EU countries. It is easy to see how the possible end of free movement could make the recruitment and retention problem worse and put the sector under immense strain.

On a good note, many EU nationals currently living and working in the UK are eligible for indefinite leave to remain, if and when Brexit happens. However, it could be argued that the health and social care profession should be given special status so that skilled nurses and carers would still be allowed to come to the country. This would give nursing and care home managers a bigger talent pool to dip into when looking to fill the ever-widening gaps in the social care workforce.

New ways of working

As a care home manager, recruitment pressures will be all too familiar. Brexit will bring new challenges but could also present an opportunity to embrace different ways of working. With less overall certainty in the jobs market and a shift towards the gig economy model, it will come as no surprise that many nurses and carers are looking to work more flexibly.

This might seem tricky to accommodate for care home managers, especially when you consider the need to balance increasingly tight budgets with their number one priority – quality and continuity of care, However, the recruitment fees incurred when taking on temporary nurses or carers have attracted press for all the wrong reasons of late – draining resources from an already stretched sector.

Passion and pride for care

Despite Brexit taking up much of the government’s time at the moment, it is clearly well aware that more needs to be done to attract and retain people to the care profession. It has put significant investment in the social care recruitment campaign currently underway. Care home managers have a special role to play here too. Creating an environment in which nursing and care professionals feel valued and respected and providing opportunities for life-long learning go a long way to making people feel supported, and restoring a sense of passion for and pride in the sector.

With most care home managers seeing their profession as more of a calling, they are truly the best advocates for working in the sector. They are also at the heart of creating the right conditions to encourage those who choose to work in social care to stay, succeed and progress. With people looking for security during these uncertain times, a long and fulfilling career in the care sector is a sure bet given the projections around our ageing population in the years to come.

In summary

With the nation all at sea, care is one sector that just can’t afford to get drawn into the drama of it all. By getting behind calls for the sector to have special status when it comes to recruiting skilled nurses and carers, as well as embracing new ways of working and being a passionate promoter of careers in care, care managers have the opportunity to rise above the chaos and lead the way in terms of effective workforce management – deal, no deal or otherwise.

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