The extent of nurse retention problems in the independent care sector has been revealed by a major survey that has found average turnover rates are 27% this year.
Research by the National Care Forum has shown some of its member organisations are experiencing far higher rates than this – with one reporting 83% turnover of registered nurses.
This is in comparison to an average turnover rate of 8% for nurses working for the NHS in England, according to the latest information available from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
“Considerable attention directed at staffing levels in the NHS…appears to have impacted on recruitment and retention of nurses to the adult social care sector”
National Care Forum
The forum’s report – called Personnel Statistics Report, survey of NCF member organisations – looks at all parts of the social care workforce, but for the first time this year investigated nurses separately to identify issues facing organisations that employ registrants.
From the survey of 60 care organisations, two thirds reported employing a total of 1,906 registered nurses providing 24-hour care.
Vacancy rates for nurses ranged from 1.8% to 75% – with an average of 16% – while the average nurse salary was reported to be £27,000.
The report noted while pay is not a major reason for staff leaving other roles in the sector, salary prospects are adversely affecting nurse retention.
The care organisation with 83% turnover paid an average nurse salary of £22,000 and another provider with 76% turnover of nurses paid them on average £24,000.
“On this occasion we found that the lowest rates of pay corresponded with the highest turnover of staff,” said the report.
One organisation said problemshad led it to set up a special workforce to address the issue of nurse recruitment.
Another commented that retention had been “an enormous struggle” in the last two years and had resulted in increased agency spend.
“One of the most worrying findings is the seemingly shrinking proportion of younger people in the workforce”
Despite pay rates for nurses in the care sector having risen in the past five years – from an average £25,500 salary in 2011 to £27,300 this year – they still do not compete with NHS salaries that start at just under £22,000 for newly-qualified registrants.
“Our members report that there is no way in which current fee rates enable them to compete with the NHS,” the report stated.
“There has been considerable attention directed at staffing levels in the NHS within the last 12 months and in turn this appears to have impacted on both recruitment and retention of nurses to the adult social care sector,” added the report.
It adds to similar warnings made by care home managers at a conference last week,as reported by Nursing Times.
Meanwhile, across all parts of the care workforce, the average turnover rate was reported as being around 20%, with nearly two thirds of all those departing in 2015 having been in post for less than three years.
Just over half of the workforce in residential, homecare and day care settings are aged over 45 and the number of staff aged under 25 has fallen for the fourth consecutive year to just 11.5% of the workforce.
Other findings showed combined agency spend has increased from £19m in 2013 to £32m this year, with the majority used for care staff.
Forum executive director Des Kelly said: “One of the most worrying findings is the seemingly shrinking proportion of younger people in the workforce. It is vital that we have strategies to attract young people to work in care – they are also our future managers.
“Apprenticeships and ambassadors are helpful but clearly not enough. It should be a priority for the care sector to work together to improve this situation,” he added.