A quarter of the adult social care workforce left their jobs last year, a briefing by the Health Foundation has said.
The election briefing on the current state of the health and social care workforce said there were “severe” adult social care staff shortages where “more than 900 people are estimated to leave their job every day”.
“The annual rate of leavers has increased steadily, from 23% of the workforce in 2012/13 to 27% in 2015/16,” the briefing said.
The vacancy rate among social workers also rose, from 7.3% to 13.1% between 2012 and 2015, the report added. It added the real value of pay for health and social care workers “fell by 5.8%” over the past seven years, compared with a reduction of 1.9% in the wider economy.
The situation has improved because of the introduction of the national living wage for staff aged over 25 in April 2016, which has increased the pay floor from £6.70 to £7.50 an hour. However, the report warned that this may have minimal impact on retention because the living wage had increased pay in other sectors too.
The foundation said the market for social care was “fragmented”, which made workforce planning more complex.
“At present there is no national statutory body responsible for ensuring that England has a social care workforce with the skills needed to provide a high-quality service,” it said.
The foundation said health and social care would need to become integrated to meet changing needs, and concluded that “piecemeal policymaking” was not serving the sector well.
“The NHS and social care will not be able to move forward to deliver sustained efficiency improvements and transform services without an effective workforce strategy,” the report said.
Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said the number of social care staff leaving their jobs “raises concerns about the sustainability of the service”.
“Retention, recruitment and morale will continue to be a thorn in the side of the health and social care sector if action is not taken to address the root cause of these problems,” Charlesworth said.
“If pay restraint in the public sector continues to 2019/20, it will have been in place for almost a decade. It is a policy that is testing the resilience of the workforce and the ability of services to improve while maintaining standards of care,” she added.
Charlesworth also pointed towards uncertainty over Brexit, with around 90,000 social care workers being from the EU. There could be “major implications” for the quality of care if there was a “significant reduction” in EU staff, Charlesworth said.
The foundation recommended the next government end the public sector pay cap, and train more staff than will be needed to help fill the current gaps.