Professional Comment

A Commentary on Healthcare Recruitment in the UK

Written by Charlie Woodward, Divisional Manager for Residential Healthcare recruitment at ARC (

If healthcare recruitment wasn’t challenging enough already, we now need to be able to navigate through a global pandemic and Brexit.

Having been a recruiter in healthcare for over 15 years, I have never seen such a variable outlook. We all know with such an aging population, not to mention the supported liv- ing and children’s services, that there will always be the need for quality care providers. However, with the deficit in care staff available ever-growing, it’s our focus is now on filling this gap – this is our expertise as a recruitment agency, right? Yes it is, but the challenges are huge and there are many obstacles to overcome.

We have already seen a significant reduction in EU workers last year as they chose to leave the UK, and we have less and less overseas staff joining us due to the restriction of free movement under Brexit. Working in the healthcare sector during a pandemic is incredibly heart wrenching. Our candidates are caring for the most vulnerable, who could not only be facing dealing with the symptoms of COVID19 but also having had all their human contact taken away from them. In addition, the care staff who soak up this emotional turmoil can often work 12-15 hour days, it’s exhausting. Did I mention they do all this for just above the national living wage?

This draws us to the subject of how we attract candidates. Yes, we have candidates new to the market as they have lost jobs, been furloughed or just want to contribute to a more fulfilling role – but with everything mentioned above, it’s a hard sell. If and when we man- age to speak to a candidate that will work in the conditions stated with NLW, we are now faced with even more hurdles. This includes reference checks from companies that no

longer exist and a lack of face to face training. We have had to move all training to online, then we are relying on our clients to induct candidates in face to face training such as moving and handling. Some candidates have reported a loss in confidence as they haven’t had the face to face training that we deliver, and pride ourselves on.

So what can we do? Increase wages? This would need to be across the board. The aver- age care worker salary is £17500, the average NHS salary is £20000 unfortunately as an agency if we increase pay rates then we need to increase our charge rates. If only a handful of agencies did this, then the clients would take their requirements to the agencies that haven’t.

What needs to happen is that care staff rates are bought in line with NHS pay rates, but this would need to come from the government. It needs to come directly from the government, or else companies will continue to pay as little as possible. We have all struggled financially and the care sector will need to cope with budgets being reduced and services being cut, so a pay increase will not be top of the agenda.

Could the government perhaps subsidise a pay increase? Only time will tell.

Fortunately the care staff that already work so hard and tirelessly will keep going as they love what they do. A quote that I have stood by for many years, is that you don’t do this job for money, you do it because you care! As do we – even with a reduced workforce and challenging situations we will still find the right candidates for our clients who we work hard for every day. It shouldn’t have to be this difficult, when a pay rise would eliminate a lot of problems!