In some ways, the most pressing issues in the home care industry in the coming year will be the same as those that have affected the sector for the last few years. However, the context has changed somewhat over the final few months of 2022, not least because of the problems that have emerged dealing with winter demand for healthcare services in the NHS. While A&E departments in virtually every NHS Trust struggle to offload patients onto wards, more professional healthcare planners are going on record to say that the bottleneck in the system will only be sorted if social care is more joined up to healthcare services. That might be nothing new but the unprecedented pressures in the system have made the need to improve home-based social care even more compelling.
At the start of the year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that there’s a need to recognise that something has to change within the NHS and social care. Claiming that previous administrations had, “significantly increased funding for health and social care,” the PM stated that financial concerns on their own were only a part of the solution. Speaking in East London in January, Mr Sunak said that the most pressing priority the healthcare system should address is moving more patients into the right sort of social care settings. Noting that a community-based approach to social care was preferable, he went on to add that it was only by moving people onto appropriate care packages that ambulances could ‘flow’ once more and that people would be able to move quickly through A&E to get the care they need.
Although many home care providers would agree that getting people out of hospitals once they’ve received care is the best way to put the NHS on a more sound course, some have pointed out that Mr Sunak’s speech did not go into any detail about how this would be achieved. Indeed, some – including Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss – pointed out that the scrapping of plans for expanded free childcare meant that working families would be even worse off trying to care for elderly relatives at home with fewer resources to manage. According to one Essex-based home care provider offering social care services within people’s homes, Anglian Care, there is a big question about how many carers can be recruited by the industry. Although Anglian Care is well-known in the industry for its reasonably high mileage allowance and superior hourly rates of pay, it acknowledges that recruitment and retention in the industry remains an ongoing issue.
Some people in social care point out that the end of free movement between the EU and the UK has made it harder for care providers to obtain the staff they need. Traditionally, the sector relied on recruiting from places in the Eurozone when earning in sterling was particularly attractive. Since the value of the pound has dropped compared to the euro, people who might have come to Britain in search of care work are likely to see it as a less attractive option. With high rents and a wider cost of living crisis – not to mention the difficulty of applying for work in the UK – overseas recruitment is likely to be an ongoing challenge in the years ahead.
Of course, one of the things that can be done is to attract more British people who have never worked in social care to enter the industry. Forward-thinking care providers undoubtedly think about novel ways to recruit and will usually make their presence felt on the high street, not just local employment agencies. However, unless further funding goes into home care services from the government, pay is likely to remain close to current levels for the time being. This is because local authority care plans will only support pay rates up to a certain level.
Of course, many care providers undertake private home-based care work, as well. However, given the other strains on household finances that can be felt up and down the country, only so much can be set aside for care. From October 2023, the social care cap will be introduced and many in the sector welcome this. It may mean that more care recipients will be willing to ‘top up’ their local authority-funded care from their own finances. If so, this could potentially lead to a more financially stable sector with improved profitability, rates of pay and, therefore, better recruitment potential. That said, the cap is still high and at £86,000, how much this will help to improve funding in the home care sector is very much an open question at the moment.
The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.