Pleas have been made urging government ministers to consider a £1000 bonus to prevent further care staff quitting ahead of a difficult winter. This knock on effect will put even more pressure on the NHS. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, say emergency payments would help tackle worsening staff shortages.
This plea is in response to new emerging figures indicating that hospitals across the UK cannot fill almost half of the number of consultant posts they advertise – the highest number for eight years. Growing numbers of care home personnel and domiciliary care workers in England are also leaving for delivery firms such as Amazon, in hospitality, or in other sectors leading to warnings that an already fragile service may become unsustainable unless this mass exodus is halted. Following on from the pandemic and the strain it placed on care workers, they are opting for better paid jobs with less responsibilities, stress and workload. In order to combat this Stephen Chandler, the president of ADASS said:
“Paying a £1,000 bonus to care workers over the winter would show that we prize their skills and dedication as a society. In the longer term ADASS wants to see a minimum social care wage that is above the national living wage, has parity with NHS pay and clear progression and development.”
He added that care workers in England were the only ones not to receive a bonus for working during Covid-19 pandemic.
NHS Providers have instead suggested a lower figure of at least £500, but reiterated to ministers that they must accept the urgency of the need to stem the loss of many personnel from the sector before it is too late. The danger is with Amazon and other firms offering bonuses to help them recruit workers in preparation for the Christmas rush, a ‘retention bonus’ will be vital otherwise the loss of social care staff will be a real issue that needs to be addressed quickly.
“With 1.5 million social care staff a [£500 bonus] comes to a total of £750m, which is a huge amount of money. A sum of this size would need to be a draw on the government reserve,” said Chris Hopson, the organisation’s chief executive. He further added, “It is this kind of immediate, emergency action that Government needs to be thinking about in the next fortnight because our health and care system has to stop the current flow of people leaving social care into other industries like retail, hospitality and logistics.” The vacancies are then hard to fill, with a lack of applications the main attributing factor. This leads to care providers stealing or poaching staff, further exacerbating the crisis.
President of the Royal College of Physicians said, “We’re being hit by a perfect storm of high demand for services and not enough staff. This can’t go on.”
However, Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer disagrees with the Christmas bonus explaining:
“It’s right care workers’ immense efforts during the pandemic are rewarded – and that something is done to stop the looming staffing catastrophe. But a one off Christmas bonus isn’t the answer – it’s a quick fix and it won’t work in the long term. Care workers are highly skilled professionals, should be treated and paid as such. They deserve at least the average salary in the UK – £15 an hour, no less.”
The former health secretary Jeremy Hunt will on Tuesday try to force the current holder of the office, Sajid Javid, to publish an independent projection every two years of how many staff the NHS needs and update on progress towards delivering the numbers needed. It remains to be seen whether this will be effective or implemented.