Watchdog raises concerns over health workforce shortages

Acute health and social care staffing challenges in some of the region's most rural areas will only worsen without a move away from traditional roles, a task force has warned.

Nearly half of all social care staff leave within a year of starting work, a report by joint scrutiny committees in North Yorkshire details, with a fifth of GPs in some areas set to retire within the next five years. Now, as watchdog members prepare calls for greater Government funding and training support, as well as protection for EU workers, they say new solutions are needed to reshape the region’s workforce.

“Despite people’s best efforts, I am concerned that the workforce shortages that we are currently experiencing will get worse as the full impact of the UK exit from the EU and the end of student bursaries for nurse and midwifery training are felt,” said County Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee.

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While a great deal of work is underway to address acknowledged shortages, he added, national policy is impacting on health and social care in the county.

“The concern remains that the issues are not being tackled in completely joined up and systematic way,” he said. “The complexities of the health and social care system and the fractured natured of the NHS has meant that, despite the hard work of regional bodies and agencies, workforce planning is often undertaken in silos or unilaterally.”

There are widening concerns around staffing shortages in health and social care within North Yorkshire, with a task force consisting of care independence and health scrutiny committee members set up this summer to explore the issue. In social care, a report put before the first committee yesterday found, shortages centre around increased demand and poor perceptions of the industry, with as many as 47.8 per cent of care workers leaving their roles within a year of starting employment.

Pay plays a part within the NHS, it adds, along with rising patient numbers and uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Shortages are already being felt in more rural and coastal areas within the county, members were told, with 21 per cent of GPs surveyed in Scarborough and Ryedale CCG set to retire in the next five years.

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And to compound the issue, recruitment and retention of skilled medical skill is more difficult in North Yorkshire and the North East than anywhere else in the country, the report adds.

Members of NYCC’s health scrutiny committee are to review the report at a meeting today and, if passed, the joint task force are to write to the Secretary of State. Among the measures to be raised are calls for a review of financial support for those seeking training, considering reinstating bursaries for nursing and midwifery, as well as additional funding for local authorities and the NHS to enable pay increases.

And, members say, a move away from traditional roles is needed, as well as exploration of new options to reshape the workforce, change the skills mix and develop new roles.

County Coun John Ennis, chair of the care and independence overview and scrutiny committee, said social care careers could be promoted to non-traditional workers, such as retirees, young people, ex-military and the long term unemployed, while workforce reviews could assess alternative ways to treat people within the NHS.

A final report on proposals to tackle workforce shortages will be presented to the health and wellbeing board early next year.