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Navigating staffing challenges in UK health and social care: lessons from our portfolio

By Matthew Rowe, Investment Director

At the end of June, the NHS Confederation wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the urgent need to address the severe staffing shortages in the social care sector, which currently has some 165,000 vacancies in England alone. This was written in response to the Government’s long-awaited plans for the NHS, which is grappling with its own substantial labour deficit. Such shortages are being experienced throughout the entire health and social care sector, a reality we at Sovereign have witnessed firsthand within our own portfolio.

It is the culmination of a perfect storm of issues: hot off the heels of Brexit came a global pandemic, and now we are in an unprecedented cost of living crisis. We have seen a reduction in overseas workers, experienced staff, and everyone in-between. Factor in an ageing population, greater incidence of comorbidities, and ever stricter eligibility criteria for government funding for care, and you have a market facing a structural fight for staff.

Sovereign’s heritage is in social care, having supported some of the leading organisations in the sector for more than 20 years, most recently Eden Futures and Nurseplus. So, what have we found when confronted with this sort of market dynamic? What has worked for us and the businesses we partner with? Let’s dive in:


Reassess the recruitment function: in the current climate it is easy to focus on external factors but by analysing, streamlining and standardising recruitment processes you can successfully improve the number of high-quality candidates and convert more of them to full-time roles.


Critically evaluate your offer to candidates: what benefits do you offer your staff? On-the-job training, apprenticeships, guides on how to use healthcare worker discounts, the list is endless. Delivering tangible care for your staff, as much as they care for your service users, will determine not only who wants to work for you, but also who wants to stay.


Be active in your markets: health and social care is a people-based sector. Focus on leveraging local and regional channels, be that a presence on the High Street, a stall at a job fair or hosting an event. This is just as important as having a strong SEO strategy and posting online job adverts. Ensure your prospective staff know who you are, what you stand for, and have opportunities to meet you in person


Be flexible in your approach: consider advertising to sectors or organisations that are scaling back their operations. Secure an overseas sponsorship licence to expand your addressable market of candidates. Do you offer referral schemes to your existing staff? The more dynamic and varied your recruitment approach, the greater your chances of success.

I have no doubt that some of the ‘Four Ps’ may have crossed your mind before or perhaps you've seen them in action. Nonetheless, I hope they stimulate your thinking and provide you with some food for thought.

If you’d like to continue the conversation with me, or learn more about how Sovereign supports organisations and management teams in the health and social care sector, please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Rowe or Crispin Apold.