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Recrutiment & Employment Confederation

Health and social care

Sector groups bring together recruiters with a common interest to lobby, champion best practice, and share knowledge.

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Get the latest information affecting recruiters in health care, social care and social work, and meet other REC members in these sectors.

The sector group provides a forum to discuss public policy, market conditions, regulatory matters and wider issues in the health and social care arena. The group is committed to working with the NHS and DHSC to help deliver safe and effective care to patients, as well as addressing the resourcing challenges in areas like social care, domiciliary care and social work.

We actively campaign and lobby on behalf of members, and are taking forward the following priorities:

  •  Calling for a level playing field for all suppliers of health and social care staff to the NHS, and a market that is favourable to SMEs.
  • Pushing for data on the true costs of operating NHS banks, and whether they are in fact a cost-effective solution.
  • For caps and controls to be applied to NHS banks, in the same way that they are applied to NHS agency frameworks.
  • Highlighting and promoting the expertise of specialist recruitment agencies in supporting the NHS, in driving compliance standards and in improving patient safety.

Read the REC Health and social care manifesto (PDF)

Benefits of joining

  • Our membership includes over 450 recruitment agencies who supply clinical and non-clinical health and social care professionals to the NHS, as well as to local authorities.
  • Lobbying and campaign activities that help your business, clients and candidates.
  • Our diverse membership includes the NHS’s ten biggest staffing suppliers as well as hundreds of SMEs; what unites them is their commitment to robust compliance standards (as required through REC membership), and their dedication to providing 24/7 staffing solutions to the NHS and the wider sector.
  • Stay informed on the latest issues affecting the sector
  • Stay informed and prepare for upcoming legislation changes

The REC meets Business Services Organisation in Northern Ireland

The REC and Business Services Organisation (BSO) – who is responsible for Health and Social Care’s procurement – met for the first time on 13 January 2022 where we discussed a range of topics from the importance of agency staff, the upcoming framework and how the REC and BSO can work together in future. This was an opportunity to share sector intelligence with BSO’s procurement team and get clarification on future plans regarding market engagement and upcoming frameworks.

The REC and BSO agreed to meet regularly going forward.

Changes to the immigration system for workers in social care announced

In light of severe staff shortages, the Home Office has announced temporary changes to visa requirements for those in the social care sector. These changes should enable more international workers to be recruited into the UK’s social care sector.

Occupations within the sector are set to be added to the Shortage Occupation List from early 2022, allowing care workers, care assistants and care home workers to be eligible for the Health and Care Worker Visa.

The temporary measures will be in place for a 12-month period, making it easier for social care employers to fill gaps in the workforce.

Read the governmental press release for more information.

Contact your MLA about the Covid-19 Special Recognition Payment (SRP)

Building on our recent campaign activity, the REC has drafted a template letter for members based in Northern Ireland to use to contact their MLA about the SRP for agency workers. Members and individual workers can write to their MLA, as constituents, urging them to work with the Department of Health and Health Minister to bring parity for the agency workforce in Northern Ireland. For more information about the Covid-19 Special Recognition Payment and other REC activities, please see the previous updates below.

You can find out who your local MLA is.

Mandatory vaccination for NHS staff in England voted through by MPs

On 14 December, MPs voted in favour of vaccination as a condition of deployment for all patient-facing workers in England. The vote passed with a 285-majority. This means that all frontline NHS staff will have to have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to maintain their roles unless they are medically exempt.

Conscious of the potential for further staff shortages that trade bodies, including the REC have raised, the government has introduced a 12-week grace period –  as they did for care home workers. The Department aims to begin enforcing the requirement from 1 April 2022.

A letter from NHS England and Improvement on review of price caps and price cards

Following a letter from the REC to NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) dated 25 November, we have now received a response which you can view here. The REC is currently drafting a follow up letter to the Department of Health and Social Care in order to raise and discuss the price caps for agency workers further.

£300m of support measures from DHSC for the workforce across the care sector

On 10 December, Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP announced a package of new support measures, making £300m available to protect and support social care workers during the ongoing pandemic. Along with the £162.5m fund announced a few months ago, the funding will go towards the recruitment and retention of care sector staff in the form of bonuses, pay rises and overtime payment.

By introducing this measure, the department is hoping to reduce pressure on the NHS ahead of a difficult winter.

Changes to Covid-19 testing regime were also announced. Care staff previously had to take two lateral flow tests per week, however they are now required to take three lateral flow tests, along with one PCR test each week.

For more information, please see the government press release.

REC letter to Department of Health – Covid-19 Special Recognition Payment

The REC has today written to Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann MLA regarding the Covid-19 Special Recognition Payments (SRP) for agency workers in Northern Ireland. A copy of the letter has been shared with Health and Social Care (HSC) and the Business Services Organisation (BSO). Medical recruitment agencies in Northern Ireland recently received instruction from HSC regarding SRP for agency staff, however eligibility terms and conditions actually prevent the majority of agency staff qualifying for the bonus. In the letter, the REC has urged DH to extend the scope of the SRP to include all critical workers, substantive and agency. Given the significant administrative burden, we have also asked for an extension to submit claims beyond 31 December 2021. Lastly, we have asked DH to conduct the necessary eligibility checks before any worker receives payment from any party, putting the onus on the Department and not on agencies.  The REC is meeting with HSC in January 2022.

The REC’s statement on Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 Special Recognition Payment

The REC has issued a statement regarding Covid-19 Special Recognition Payment for agency workers in Northern Ireland. In the statement, the REC urges Health and Social Care (HSC) to bring forward parity for agency and substantive workers, all of whom showed unreserved dedication for their patients throughout the pandemic. HSC previously has announced the one-off bonus for frontline medical staff, as a sign of recognition and gratitude for their contribution throughout the pandemic but while most substantive staff have received this payment, recent instruction from HSC prevent the majority of agency staff from qualifying for the bonus. The REC is working closely with the members in Northern Ireland and a further letter will be issued to HSC shortly. A meeting between the REC and HSC has also been scheduled in January.

Care Minister, Gillian Keegan MP, announces £500m fund towards training and supporting social care workforce

Ahead of the implementation of the Social Care Levy, last week, Care Minister, Gillian Keegan MP made a statement on social care and presented a White Paper outlining the government’s 10-year-vision for the sector. The paper and statement have three core aspects; housing, technology and workforce. Workforce receives the highest level of funding with £500m towards development, progression and qualification. The government’s objective is to create a workforce that is well-trained, healthy, supported, sustainable, and recognised.

 Read the government’s white paper for more information. The section about workforce starts at page 65.

The REC writes to NHSE/I regarding agency price cards update

We would like to provide the latest on the delayed publication of the updated price cards 2021-2022 for the NHS agency workforce. We updated our members a couple of weeks ago, via the sector hub page, that the REC had been in touch with NHSEI multiple times in the last few months to address the delay on the new price cards reflecting the NHS pay increase. Based on recent conversations, the REC now understands that the publication is further delayed.

 As such, the REC has once again written to NHSEI, expressing our concern about the delay and the negative impact it will have on recruitment businesses. We’ve also sought clarification on the rationale behind the delay, the timing of publication, and the scope of the pay rate review. The REC is working to bring forward the fair and equal treatment of agency workforce ensure there is transparent and meaningful engagement between NHSEI and the medical recruitment sector. The letter sent to Amanda Pritchard, CEO, NHSEI can be found here.

NHS England puts workforce planning and digital transformation at the heart of the agenda

The Health Secretary has announced major reforms to England’s healthcare regime by merging Health Education England (HEE), NHSX and NHS Digital into NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I). By combining the education body of the NHS with NHSE/I, the department hopes to bring together financial planning, workforce planning and workforce development into a single organisation where a simplified and integrated national strategy for the NHS is viable. The merger will also bring forward strategic changes to education and training to allow employers to recruit the right level and volume of health professionals and skills at the right places with a view to increase patients benefits.

While NHSX and NHS Digital have already delivered innovative solutions to the healthcare sector, with a single central unit combined with NHSE/I, the government hopes to speed up delivering digital transformation across health and care for the years to come while contributing to tackling the patient backlog and recovering services following the pandemic.

For more information, you can read the department’s press release.

The REC writes to Northern Ireland Minister, Robin Swann MLA

The REC has written to Northern Ireland’s Health Minister to raise concerns about the forth extension to the agency workforce framework in Northern Ireland. There are two main concerns regarding this extension; firstly, there is limited opportunity to discuss the price caps, and secondly agencies that are currently not on framework have been unable to access it. The REC used the opportunity to urge the Department of Health and Business Services Organisation (BSO) to offer better market engagement and supplier communications. You can read our letter here.

REC’s response to staff shortages in healthcare and costs of agency workforce

The REC is aware of a story in the Guardian newspaper regarding the cost of agency workers in the midst of staff shortages in the health and social care sectors. The REC has responded to both the journalist and the National Care Association setting out our members’ position. The REC has long called for a comprehensive workforce review for the health and care sectors to address ongoing skills shortages, particularly as inflated wages are a short-term approach to the crisis. Please click here to view our full statement.

Sajid Javid announces mandatory vaccines for frontline NHS staff across England

On 9 November, the Health Secretary announced that Covid-19 vaccinations will be a condition of deployment for all frontline NHS staff in England starting 1 April 2022 following the consultation on the measures over Autumn. While he understands that there are pressures on the workforce and industry’s concerns around labour shortages, the government, NHS England and other advisors have concluded that vaccines are the most effective forms of protection against Covid-19. Subject to parliamentary vote, the new legislation will be applied to those who have face-to-face interaction with patients unless they are medically exempt.

Last month, the REC delivered a letter to Sajid Javid, outlining the views of our healthcare members on compulsory Covid-19 vaccines based on a poll we carried out during the sector webinar on 12 October. During the poll, 75% of the respondents thought vaccines should be required for NHS staff. However, a majority of the participants were concerned that mandatory vaccines could exacerbate medical workforce shortages. Recognising the risk of staff leaving the sector and listening to the industry, a grace period until April next year has been introduced and Sajid Javid said the department and NHS England will use the time between now and then to vaccinate more frontline workers as well as to carry out workforce planning.

The announcement comes as mandatory covid-19 vaccines for care workers are set to come into effect on 11 November in England. There are no similar proposals from devolved nations.

£162m funding for adult social care to boost workforce recruitment and retention across England

On 3 November, the Department of Health and Social Care published guidance on Workforce Recruitment and Retention Fund for adult social care announcing £162m funding to support local authorities and social care providers maintain safe staffing levels over the winter period and to grow and retain sufficient workforce capacity level across services.

Local authorities are encouraged to boost staff wages and launch various local recruitment initiatives with the funding. While the main purpose of the funding is to support local authorities address workforce capacity issues, the department also urges councils to work closely with their partner organisations to discuss ways that the sectors can work together to attract new staff while retaining the existing workforce.

The guidance is part of wider policy paper on Adult social care: COVID-19 winter plan 2021 to 2022 which outlines elements of national support for adult social care and workforce planning. The announcement applies to England only.

NHS England’s agency price cards to remain the same until the new year

The REC is aware that NHS England is yet to publish the updated price card for 2021-2022 for NHS agency workforce to reflect the 3% pay increase that was announced for NHS staff a couple of months ago. The REC has been in touch with NHSEI multiple times in the last few months to flag this and understand the reason behind the delay.

 The REC has been advised that, while there has been a delay, “NHSEI is reviewing and processing to update the price caps as a priority and a decision and final approval are expected ‘sometime in the new year’”.  NHSEI would like to inform all agencies that “there are no changes to the price caps and they should continue to apply the current caps until further notice.”  The reason given for the delay is a rigorous review process being applied.

 The REC is continuing our engagement with NHSEI, we will keep pushing for a more exact timeframe of publication and any updates from NHSEI will be published on this sector page. If you would like to share your feedback on how this delay is affecting your businesses, please get in touch.


The Chancellor delivers the Autumn Budget including the biggest healthcare funding since 2010

On 27 October, Chancellor Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP delivered the Budget which focused on a strong economic recovery, public finance and employment support. With rising inflation, a climate emergency, and energy shortages, the announcement’s main goals are to support people with the cost of living and help government achieve its ambition of levelling up.

For businesses, Sunak announced a range of support measures from a 50% business rate cut for certain industries and cancelling next year’s increase in the business rates multiplier. You can also take a look at the REC’s budget roundup and wider analysis.

For the healthcare sector, clearing the NHS backlog continues to be an immediate priority alongside putting the adult social care funding mechanism in place through the so-called social care levy announced earlier this year. Other key points include:

  • The government has provided the largest real-terms health budget since 2010, totalling £177.4bn by 2024-25
  • ‘Hundreds of millions of pounds’ of additional funding towards to build “a bigger, better trained NHS workforce.”
  • Commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses
  • Social care levy will go towards tackling the elective backlog and adult social care
  • £4.2bn into building 40 new hospitals by 2030 and upgrading over 70 hospitals

On the points regarding the workforce, the REC will work to ensure that the government puts the diverse nature of the workforce at the heart of its agenda, incorporating temporary and flexible workers. To read the full Budget document, please view Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021.

The REC has delivered our members’ view to DHSC on mandatory vaccine for frontline healthcare workers

The DHSC consultation on compulsory Covid-19 and flu vaccines for all health and social care workers closed on 22 October. Ahead of the consultation closing, the REC wrote to the Health Secretary, outlining the views of our healthcare members on the proposed measures based on a poll we carried out during the sector webinar earlier this month.

 During the survey, 75% of participants said that they think mandatory vaccines should be required for NHS staff. However, the majority of our members were concerned that there would be a negative impact on the medical workforce, further labour shortages and a lack of clear guidance from the government on how employers should verify the vaccination status and medical exemption. You can view the letter to the Department of Health and Social Care  and the recording of the healthcare webinar

A new £250m Winter Access Fund to help GPs in England with patient support

The Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) have published ‘Our plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice’, setting out the measures around how the funding will be spent to increase patient accessibility while exploring balanced hybrid access models.

 While the decision makers of the usage of the fund are the local health systems, the fund is designed to deliver two main aspects 1) improved access to urgent, same day primary care by increasing capacity and GP appointment numbers achieved at practice or PCN level, or in combination and 2) increased resilience of the NHS urgent care system during winter, by expanding same day urgent care capacity, through other services in any primary and community settings.

The document published last week also highlights that NHSE&I is working to increase the number of GPs to 6,000 – in line with the Government’s manifesto commitment. Additionally, NHSE&I is required to achieve a target of 15,500 new primary care professionals by March 2022 which will provide additional support GPs.

 Key messages from the Winter Access Fund have been set out below:

  • Additional capacity funding for system for more prompt access to appointment
  • Expanding numbers of GPs and other primary care professionals
  • Moving to cloud-based practice telephony to increase the capacity for digital communications channels
  • Making best use of community pharmacy to alleviate pressure on GP appointments and harness the skills of community pharmacists
  • Practice-level review of levels of face-to-face care to review the right balance for patients between remote and face-to-face consultations
  • A system to evaluate patient satisfaction to be rolled out as early as April 2022

For more information, please read the official document.

Guidances on mandatory vaccine for care home workers in England

From 11 November 2021 and following a 16-week grace period, anyone entering a CQC-registered care home in England must be fully vaccinated or prove that they are exempt. The new requirement will apply to care home staff, agency workers, contractors and volunteers. Please see guidance published by the Department of Health & Social Care for details.

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, has also published a useful guidance outlining who is required to be fully vaccinated and how employers should plan and discuss the new requirement with staff and contractors, which can be found here.

Government announces an increase in national insurance contribution 

The Government has today 7th September 2021 announced an 1.25% increase in national insurance contributions,– called ‘social care levy’- which is set to generate £12bn annually. The levy aims to increase the NHS capacity to 110% with contributions from both employees and employers. The short-term aim of the levy is to help the NHS clear the backlog of elective care and tackle the waitlist for the next three years while the long-term goal is to “protect individuals and families against unpredictable and potentially catastrophic care costs”. Subject to the vote in Parliament on 8 September, the levy is set to begin in April 2022 and people entering into care from October 2023 will have access to the new measures. The Government claims the tax rise is a ‘fair contribution’ where every individual and business will contribute according to their means, pledging to protect small businesses. The Government has published a full document on their plan for health and social care which can be found here. For the REC’s initial thoughts please click here.

Join the Health and Social Care sector group

If you’re interested in joining the REC Health and Social Care sector group, contact your REC account manager at or 020 7009 2100