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NHS leaders warn that social care workforce crisis risks patient safety

NHS leaders across England say staffing gaps and a lack of capacity in social care are putting the care and safety of patients in the NHS at risk.

Almost 250 NHS leaders responding to an NHS Confederation survey say that patients are being delayed in hospital much longer than they should, with the knock-on impact resulting in higher demand on A&E departments and longer ambulance response times.

  • More than 9 in 10 NHS leaders warn of a social care workforce crisis in their area which they expect will get worse this winter.
  • Nearly all NHS leaders say the lack of capacity in social care is putting the care and safety of patients at risk.
  • More than four in five warn that the absence of care packages for people to be able to return home or be moved into a care home is the main reason why medically fit patients are stuck in hospital longer than they should be.
  • Almost all NHS leaders say that the most impactful solution would be better pay for social care staff and want the Government to increase investment in social care as a priority.

An acute trust executive director in the South West accused the Government of presiding over a “national scandal.”

“If the social care capacity shortfall was solved then we would not be holding ambulances at all, we would have almost no problems with elective recovery and our emergency departments would not be crowded and unsafe,” they said.

Another acute trust chair in the East of England added: “The result of using nearly 20 per cent of our beds for patients who are medically fit but need packages of care to return home is an overcrowded A&E, twelve-hour trolley waits and much delayed ambulance handover times. The connection is very clear to us…Until we find a solution to social care staffing and funding, the situation can only get worse.”

Commenting on the survey results Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation, said:

“Decades of delay and inertia have left social care services chronically underfunded and in desperate need of more support.

“NHS leaders stand alongside their sister services in social care in wanting a rescue package for the sector. They are sounding the alarm and sending a clear message to Government that the social care system has not been ‘fixed’."

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Source: NHS Confederation, 28 July 2022


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