Social care staff burnout has reached 'emergency level', report says

In a highly critical report, the Health and Social Care Committee finds that workforce burnout across the NHS and social care has reached an emergency level and poses a risk to the future functioning of both services.

10/06/21

Social care staff burnout has reached 'emergency level', report says

Social care burnout poses a risk to the future functioning of services, and only a total overhaul of workforce planning can provide a solution, MPs have said.

Though Covid-19 had a huge impact on workforce pressures, the Health and Social Care Committee was told of staff shortages across the NHS and social care prior to the pandemic, with such shortages identified as ultimately the biggest driver of workforce burnout.

The inquiry heard that workforce planning was at best “opaque” and at worst was responsible for unacceptable pressure on staff.

The Report concluded that available funding was the driver behind planning, rather than the level of demand and staffing capacity needed to service it.

Despite the scope of the inquiry, evidence given cautioned against a focus on the resilience of individual staff members, advising instead to consider systems and systemic solutions.

Jeremy Hunt, Chair of Health and Social Care Committee, said workforce burnout among NHS and care staff presents an “extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services”.

“An absence of proper, detailed workforce planning has contributed to this, and was exposed by the pandemic with its many demands on staff. However, staff shortages existed long before Covid-19,” Hunt said.

“Staff face unacceptable pressure with chronic excessive workload identified as a key driver of workforce burnout. It will simply not be possible to address the backlog caused by the pandemic unless these issues are addressed.”

The report found that though there are many causes of burnout, chronic excessive workload is a “key driver”, saying this “must be tackled as a priority”.

It asks the Government to extend the NHS Staff Survey to also cover the care sector to fully understand the scale and impact of workforce burnout on both NHS and care staff. It is also asking that it maintains the resources allocated to mental health support for staff when the NHS and social care return to ‘business as usual’ after the pandemic.

The inquiry also heard about the specific challenges staff from BAME backgrounds faced in relation to workplace culture, burnout and resilience.

Lord Adebowale, Chair of NHS Confederation, told the inquiry that non-White staff were subject to more bullying, were not promoted in the same way as their White colleagues, and were in some cases refusing to work.

“Leaders, who are generally White in the NHS, generally aren’t held accountable for leading all the people all the time,” Adebowale said, adding: “That’s a systemic issue.”

The unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic worsened existing problems in the workforce, with the inquiry hearing about the pressure and challenges faced by care staff, with self-isolation and quarantine exacerbating absence levels.

Care England explained that adult social care staff had also taken the place of residents’ relatives and loved ones.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said the workforce is only as resilient as the funding and behind, and called for “adequate long-term support” for the sector.

“We want to work with the Prime Minister to ensure that his promise to reform social care is delivered upon and carries the views and experiences of those at the front line.

“Health and social care are two sides of the same coin. It is therefore essential that the adult social care workforce has the same access to resources as colleagues in the NHS. Maintaining the financial sustainability of social care providers is of fundamental importance in maintaining the capacity of the integrated health and care system and the resilience of the adult social care workforce.”

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