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Future skills and performance challenges facing the health & social care sector

Old lady in careThe recent report released by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) highlights a number of key concerns facing the health and social care industry in the coming years.  Demand for workers in health and social care services is set to rocket in the years ahead, but there is a risk of a huge shortfall in workers with the right talents and training to meet the growing demand.  There are currently 4 million people employed within this sector and it is reasonably estimated that there is a need for 2 million more workers recruited and trained by 2022, this is equivalent to over half of the existing workforce and presents key challenges for training and staff retention.

The UKCES findings show a poor prognosis for skills in health and social care, with employees finding limited opportunities to progress to higher level roles and many younger workers leaving the sector as a result.  Coupled with that statistic there is a larger than average proportion of those working in the sector aged  50 – 64, further stressing the need for new talent as a large cohort of the existing workforce is set to retire in the years ahead.  The report, Skills and Performance Challenges in Health and Social Care, highlights the changing face of work in the sector, with future care needs set to revolve around enabling patients to support themselves and live independently.  An increasing shift towards patients managing their own care, and more care taking place in the home, is also creating a rising focus on preventative treatments, greater use of technology and a need for more autonomous, remote working from the existing workforce.

In order to tackle these challenges, the report calls on employers to create more training opportunities and intermediary roles, increasing options for progression, as well as develop dual training routes – allowing individuals to progress careers in both health and social care without the need to retrain. The research also confirmed that many health and social care workers were highly skilled and well trained but earnings for those in health and social care were 11% lower than the national average, this could also have an impact on attrition from the sector.

The report goes on to say that over the next five to ten years, the sector faces uncertainty due to rising demand and reduced availability of resources, as well as structural reform. Such changes are likely to lead to a more diverse set of employers operating in the sector and a more joined up approach to service delivery by health and social care staff. This will present opportunities for exchange of ideas, as well as challenges relating to differing traditions and working patterns. Existing occupations are likely to expand beyond their current parameters, and new roles are likely to emerge which fill gaps between the traditional health and social care professions. Training structures, professional identities and regulation will need to adapt to facilitate such changes.

Another dynamic is balancing the degree of specialisation with the need for a core occupational skillset, particularly among healthcare occupations. Balancing this to best meet patient and service user need is an ongoing debate, with widespread impacts. The sector also faces long-term questions about how best to recruit and train people who share and demonstrate the values required in health and social care work.  In addition, technological and medicinal innovation will enable service users to manage their own care to a greater degree, and will affect all occupations. There will be a culture shift as staff adopt higher level skills (for example, to facilitate enablement). The continual evolution of technology and medicine means that other skills implications are harder to predict. A responsive training and regulatory infrastructure will be needed to mobilise quickly and act upon any changes.

Vicki Belt, assistant director at UKCES said: “With medical advancements leading us to live longer, more active lives, the knock on effect is a sharp rise in the need for those who keep us in good health in our later years.  “These findings demonstrate the dramatic extent of this need – health and social care is already the largest sector in the UK, yet to meet the rising need for care we will need to see a 50 per cent increase in the number of people working in these fields. “However, the problem goes beyond just a need to recruit. Employers must do more to create attractive career pathways through which people can progress, as well as develop training routes which can apply to roles in both health and social care – opening access to all areas the sector.”

You can read the full 91 page report here.  If you would like to discuss any of your existing and future training requirements having read this we would be delighted to have a discussion to help you meet the tough challenges ahead.