A career in health and social care is first choice for many job seekers who want to “make a difference” to other people’s lives, while having a satisfying and stimulating role in their local community. In order to encourage this and keep a constant stream of aspirational new talent coming into the industry, we need to make sure that those joining have access to the training and development opportunities they need to keep them motivated and retain their skills long term within the profession.
The shocking but not surprising news from the Nursing and Midwifery Council that numbers of our “homegrown” staff are falling and one in four nurses is recruited from abroad, follows the woeful annual cuts in training places – estimated at 8,000 – overseen by this coalition government. This should be reversed urgently. We must lobby the new government to recognise that our ageing population will need one million additional care workers by 2025 – now less than a decade away.
In this election campaign, much is being made of the economic recovery and the more satisfactory employment numbers – we must persuade our legislators that investing our growing prosperity in training health and social care workers is a priority at least equal to HS2. What would you rather have when you’re older, in poor health or less mobile – an experienced, well-trained professional assisting you to maintain your independence in your own home or half an hour knocked off your journey to Birmingham? I know which I’d prefer.
We must also persuade men that our profession is satisfying and rewarding, as far fewer men than women become care workers. This outdated sexist attitude – that caring roles are best carried out by women – should definitely be put to bed. In order to cope with an expanding older population, greater numbers of people with dementia and a diminishing workforce, we need to attract the right people regardless of sex. We are no longer surprised to see male nurses in our hospitals, so progress can be made.
Staffing is a very complex area, hugely important but challenging to get just right. Equally important as achieving adequate numbers is engaging men and women with the right mix of skills, experience and qualities to meet patients’ needs. There are going to be extraordinary demands on our care services in the years to come and we need action now on providing adequate reward and strong career prospects to those we need so desperately to join the profession.