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Senior NHS Leader Blames Cost of Living Pressure for Health Workers’ Relocation

cost of living crisis affecting NHS worker relocations
© Ian Taylor

The cost of living squeeze in Surrey is driving health workers out of the area, according to a senior NHS leader. Ian Smith, chair of NHS Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board, has spoken out about the difficulties of recruitment and retention in the sector, describing it as one of the main causes of the current crisis in social care and within the NHS.

In an interview with the Newcross Healthcare ‘Voices of Care’ podcast, Mr Smith revealed that the NHS in Surrey is losing workers to the Midlands and the North due to the high cost of living in the South of England. He explained that the rapid turnover rates, especially when recruiting staff from outside the country, is leading to a much higher rate of turnover in the NHS workforce than usual. Additionally, sickness rates are two or three percentage points higher than normal, which Mr Smith attributes in part to COVID-19-related stress.

Mr Smith also addressed the issue of staffing problems in the social care sector, stating that it is in crisis due to the shortage of 100,000 workers out of a workforce of approximately 1.2 million. The rate of turnover in social care is higher than in the NHS, and low wages are causing significant difficulties in retaining staff. Workers are often paid £12-13 an hour on zero-hour contracts, making it very challenging to keep them in the sector.

Finally, in the wide-ranging interview, Mr Smith addressed the need for government funding for the NHS, acknowledging that it is necessary to be realistic about how much the country can afford to spend on health and social care. However, he emphasised that the increased demand for services must be recognised and addressed.