Tuesday, 11 April 2017

"Social care system 'beginning to collapse' as 900 carers quit every day"

From the BBC.

I don't wish to make light of the whole topic, but I am always suspicious of "big scary numbers" in headlines, or headlines containing the words "collapse" or "black hole" for that matter. Or a government spokesman saying that they are "investing £2 billion" when they mean "spending £2 billion" and there is no mention of timeframe, whether this is the total spend, or an increase to existing spend, in which case we need the change adjusted for inflation.

The BBC reports the nub of the issue in the article:

Data gathered by the charity Skills for Care, shows that in 2015-16 there were more than 1.3 million people employed in the adult social care sector in England.

Analysing the data, BBC News has found that... An estimated 338,520 adult social care workers left their roles in 2015-16. That is equivalent to 928 people leaving their job every day.

That means annual staff turnover is one in four, or put it the other way, the average carer stays in the business for about four years.

It's very difficult work, but I bet it doesn't take too long to train up to a reasonable standard. There are a few long-termers like "Sue Gregory, who has been a nurse in a care home for over 13 years", but by and large and for most of them, it is just a short term job like working in a hotel or a supermarket or anything else. My sister did it for a few years after she finished uni, lots of nurses do it in between working in hospitals, I am sure that a large proportion are foreigners who come to the UK to earn good money (by their standards) with the intention of going home after a few years etc. You can't fault them for that.

To summarise: the 900-a-day figure is pretty meaningless on its own.
See also "445 family doctors quit the profession between September and December 2016; a rate of nearly 150 a month".

There appear to be over 200,000 GPs in the UK, so that's a turnover of less than one percent a year; assuming a typical career of thirty years, you'd expect it to be at least three per cent.


Shiney said...


You are an accountant.... like me. So you do 'ratios' or comparisons or rates of change in numbers etc etc. Most people don't. So they get conned by journalists/IFAs (sorry Lola)/politicos etc quoting one big (or small) number on its own.

Curtis said...

Well it doesn't say how many people are joining, so the number leaving on its own doesn't mean very much.

Anyway, there is a big difference between a nurse and a carer. Nurses all have 3-year degrees these days, whereas it takes about 6 weeks to become a "qualified" carer. The nurse who worked for 13 years is not the problem, she earns a lot more than the actual carers and probably doesn't do much of the actual grunt work, and is under much less pressure or stress compared to her hospital colleagues.

lots of nurses do it in between working in hospitals

I don't think so. Nurses who want to earn more than the pay for their contracted hours, will just work extra locum shifts. It's easy to get these shifts since there are never enough nurses anywhere. Hospital nurses generally do something like 13-hour shifts 2-3 days in a row and are then off for the rest of the week then have to adjust their body clock by 12 hours to do the same thing on nights. Yes ok some are part time and some refuse to work nights but you need to be quite senior and on good terms with your boss to do that. If you mean doing care work when between employers, same thing, why would you take a massive pay cut when locum nursing shifts are always available?

I am sure that a large proportion are foreigners who come to the UK to earn good money (by their standards)

Outside of London, no. They are mostly British, either young people who want to become nurses, or people who aren't able to do an intellectually stimulating job (and I don't mean this in a bad way, being a carer is not very rewarding job, but necessary until we get robots). For one, you can't get a visa to do this sort of job, so the only way a legally resident non-EU citizen could do it (at least before they have stayed for 5 years and are accepted to stay permanently) is if they tagged along with their spouse who is doing a proper job, or their kids managed to get them over (which can't happen any more after 2008). There are some EU people doing care jobs but actually the money isn't good enough to attract them from eastern Europe, they would already be in the UK for some other reason.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Sh, yup.

C, I was generalising. The nurse example is anecdotal from a nurse I knew 20 years ago. Official figure for EU citizens in care sector is 7% of total. But either way, it's simply not a long term job for most.

Mark Wadsworth said...

C, also I didn;t specifically say people from the EU, I said "foreigners", which is probably as many again as 7%. For sure, these care jobs are NMW jobs, but as we know, a lot of foreigners end up doing NMW jobs in this country.

Mike W said...

Anecdotal. A friend who has worked in one, tells me that Call Centers have an average staff stay period of 1 year. I have no idea if that is true. But given the Guv is rebuilding the northern economy on them, this might be a worry. As it happens, I also overheard a group of call center staff the other day talking about who knew who, from which call center before. I concluded they all went around the local call center circuit in ever decreasing circles! My guess then is care home staff have the same in/out/in paths.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MW, I am surprised that anybody lasts as long as one year in one call centre. I think I'd rather work in a care home.

Bayard said...

"An estimated 338,520 adult social care workers left their roles in 2015-16. That is equivalent to 928 people leaving their job every day."

A statistic which would still be true if every one of those 338,520 care workers walked straight into a job in another care home the next day, but that's not what the Beeb or the Graun want you to think, is it?

Lies, damned lies....