The COVID-19 health crisis is creating a large pool of manpower with nowhere to go. The number of workers on UK company payrolls fell by almost 650,000 from March to June this year. This, coupled with a record low number of vacancies, is a serious cause for concern for the UK economy.
Whilst sectors such as hospitality had to lean heavily on the government-backed furlough scheme, health and social care remained the lynchpin of the employment market. Despite the social care vacancy rate falling by a fifth from March to June due to a drop in demand, health and social care still accounts for almost one-third of all vacancies whilst other sectors have been decimated.
Skills for Care estimated that there were around 122,000 vacancies across social care in 2018/19 but it now faces another challenge in the form of the new points-based immigration system, which is set to cause complications for many of the migrant workers it relies upon. This will also impact its aim of increasing the number of sector jobs from 1.65m to 2.17m by 2035 due to an ageing population.
The social care sector is now relying on two strategies to bolster its workforce. Firstly, it is welcoming volunteers, facilitated by The National Care Force, which now boasts 20,000 volunteers across 2,000 providers. It is encouraging to witness acts of charity but this is not a sustainable, long-term solution.
Secondly, some providers are targeting those affected by the pandemic by posting job vacancies aimed at the recently unemployed. This is the demographic that will support the sector in the long term but consideration also needs to be made for other sectors once the crisis has subsided.
There are multiple sector-specific recruitment platforms available such as Cera Care, who recently secured a short-term deal to fast-track recruitment into social care. However, sector-specific platforms fail to capitalise on those yet to actively identify a potential career in the sector.
There are also cross-sector platforms such as Tempo, which lists the NHS among its clientele. Whilst this is a step in the right direction towards a holistic, place-based recruitment strategy, these platforms often get lost in the shuffle, leaving an opportunity for a recognised market leader.
Local councils or shared-accountability entities such as Integrated Care Systems should identify this as an opportunity to develop or champion a cross-industry recruitment platform for temporary staff, supported by a robust marketing campaign, which will mobilise the workforce within their locale.
The beauty of a digital, place-based recruitment strategy is that the individual in question could be vetted and verified centrally to ascertain relevant training, background checks and qualifications, which would then speed up the onboarding process with member organisations.
There are bound to be some negative side effects such as concerns around the continuity of care when using a dynamic staff bank but the first priority should be to ensure shifts are fulfilled. Organisations can then tailor work patterns based on the specific nuances they face.
Once a place-based recruitment strategy has been established, this model could then be taken one step further to include e-rostering capabilities so that employees and temporary members of staff can actively and digitally pick up shifts based on their availability.
As a former community support worker, I can attest to some of the archaic, inefficient and time-consuming processes involved in assigning shifts across social care. In fact, the government has acknowledged that 70% of care homes still operate with paper-based record keeping today.
Staff management has seen a lot of market activity lately. In July, Locum’s Nest (who work with NHS Professionals; the largest NHS staff bank in the UK) released four new products for temporary staffing across healthcare. These could also factor into NHSE/I’s framework, launched in June, for digital solutions to deploy sessional clinician capacity across GPs.
I envisage a place-based digital platform that both recruits and manages temporary staff across multiple organisations and sectors. This would result in a dynamic and fluid workforce that could be deployed based on demand rather than operating in the silo of an individual’s sole employer.
Jonathan Cordwell, Principal Analyst, UK Health & Social Care Technology, GlobalData