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Healthcare and Society

The Job Market


  • Around 4 million people work in health and social work activities in the UK 

  • The National Health Service (NHS), which is the single largest employer in Europe, employs more than 1.7 million people - just under half are clinically qualiIfied with nurses making up the largest grouping

  • For the last few years, hospitals have been closing wards and reducing the number of operating theatres because they cannot afford to run them. Staff cuts (such as not replacing employees who leave and making some staff redundant) are also taking place. In addition, some hospitals are threatened with closure

  • According to Skills for Care, there are estimated to be around 1.56 million people in the adult social care sector - the total number of adult social care jobs was estimated to have increased by around 7% between 2009 and 2010

  • In addition around 21,900 organisations were involved in providing or organising adult social care in England in 2010. Increasingly, there is a tendency to provide social care within the community and for those in need of care (such as the elderly or disabled) to receive 'direct payments' so they can buy in their own social care services

  • The vast majority of adult social care jobs are in providing direct care - including care workers, personal assistants, and counsellors. Professional roles (such as social workers and occupational workers) are a much smaller grouping (less than 10%)

  • Most social worker opportunities are with local authorities. Other areas of employment for social workers include private care homes and the voluntary sector.

  • Skilled staff shortages are a problem for some work areas, including maternity nursing, social work, probation work and care work.

  • Shortages are being tackled in various ways, including publicity drives to encourage more people into the work and using non-qualified (but lower paid) staff - e.g. there is an increasing role of non-social work staff in councils who provide telephone advice, for instance. In the long term, this could mean more competition for professional social workers

  • The voluntary sector has been extremely important in the care field for many years. However, government cuts have led to funding issues for many organisations, which means that some are less able to take on so many volunteers. Voluntary experience is an important way into the care professions.

  • Most nurseries are independently-run ‘one-offs’, rather than part of chains. As well as private companies, local authorities (councils) also run them. Specific qualifications are usually required by local authority employers whereas entry requirements for private nursery jobs might be more flexible.

  • Women predominate in social care.  In nursery work the percentage of male workers is tiny even though many nurseries are keen to employ more males to act as role models for the children.