How is the NHS crisis linked to the social care crisis?

We’ve all seen the endless stream of news on full NHS beds, prolonged ambulance waiting times and overworked staff – but where does social care come into all this? 

In the UK, there are currently 13,000 patients who are ready to be discharged from hospital, but can’t leave because of issues within the social care system. 

In this blog, we explore these issues and how they are directly impacting the NHS crisis. 

Staffing shortages

There are nearly 1.8 million staff who work in the social care sector, compared to the NHS which currently has around 1.2 million employees.  On top of this, there are over 10 million unpaid carers. 

All in all, there simply aren’t enough staff to keep up with demand, with the vacancy rate currently the highest on record (10.7%). This is due to a number of factors, including an increase in sickness related absences since the pandemic and Brexit-related retention issues. 

A speaker for Nuffield Trust said social care has seen “a drop in EU nationals which has not been compensated by wider recruitment.” 

However, the biggest issue still resides in pay, with the average social worker salary standing at £18,000 a year. 

Community Integrated Care is one of the charities working towards closing the pay gap, and recently launched its #UnfairToCare report


When the NHS was founded in 1948, it was agreed that healthcare would be free of cost, while social care would be funded by local authorities. With our ageing population, there is now an unprecedented demand for social care which the old system can no longer keep up with. 

As the King’s Fund Social Care 360 report highlights, “spending per head has fallen from £593 per person to £585 per person.” This has placed increased pressure on social care budgets, which are already struggling as a result of Brexit and Covid-19. 

Now what we have is both pressure on the overall care budget, as well as pressure on how health and social care collaborate. 

Dr Dan Poulter, Tory MP and former health minister told The Guardian: “The system is fragmented. There is no financial incentive in the system for these parts to work together. Instead the reverse is often the case. There are competing priorities.” 

What progress are we seeing? 

The UK government is looking to introduce integrated care boards which aim to “plan and deliver health and care services”. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also promised more than £200m in funding to speed up the hospital discharge process and move medically fit patients into social care. 

However, it is evident that there is still a lot more progress to be made until the social care sector is no longer at risk. 

Or as BBC’s Ros Atkins puts it, “we need two systems that can act as one – at the moment that remains a goal, not a reality.”

Social Personnel have put together a list of resources for social workers struggling with their mental health at this difficult time, which you can check out here

carlette Isaac

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *