Are Health and Social Care Apprenticeships Sufficient to Care for the Aging Population?

There are more than 10 million people aged 65 and over currently living in the UK. By 2025, it has been estimated that 2.8 million of our ageing population will require nursing and social care. Undoubtedly, a greater number of these will be in residential care.

In this article, we look in the crystal ball and ask if health and social care apprenticeships are sufficient to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population in residential care homes.

Health and social care must be prepared for an ageing population

The UK is beginning to stumble under the weight of its ageing population. There are more people living longer than ever before. Advances in medical science, improvements in social infrastructure, and better education in dietary and exercise are all factors improving the chances of living longer. And, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the aged population is exploding in the UK:

  • The proportion of people aged 65 and over in the UK is set to grow to nearly a quarter by 2046
  • By 2036, life expectancy for females is projected to be 86.6 years, and 83.7 years for males

There are currently 421,000 older people in residential care in the UK (LaingBuisson). That’s 3.6% of all those aged 65 and over.

By 2026, if this ratio remains unchanged, this number will have increased to around 515,000.

By 2046, the ONS estimates that the UK’s population will have grown to 76.3 million, with 24.7% of these aged 65 and over. This suggests that:

  • 85 million people aged 65 and over will be living in the UK in 2046
  • 679,000 people aged 65 and over will be in residential care homes in 2046

An ageing population will need more care

It is estimated that a quarter of later life is spent with at least one disability requiring greater specialisation of care. A study into the care needs of the ageing UK population, published in The Lancet in 2017, found that:

  • The fastest growing cause of disability is dementia. In 2015, 468,000 aged people in the UK had dementia care needs. By 2025, this number is expected to be 699,000 – an increase of 49% in only 10 years.
  • Following dementia, mental health problems, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic diseases are set to increase by 37% between 2015 and 2025 (to approximately 1.4 million).

The message is clear: the pressures on your care home are likely to increase.

What capability will the best care homes offer in 2025 and beyond?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) was early to realise the changing needs of care homes. In late 2013, it wrote about improving the mental wellbeing of older people in care homes. It noted that mental health issues encountered by older people included:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Low levels of life satisfaction

NICE noted that many care homes don’t provide person-centred care.

Health and social care apprenticeships – the starting block to better residential care?

Health and social care apprenticeships can be a good pathway to give care workers the foundation for a successful career in care. They provide the necessary training and knowledge required to upskill new trainees: and training your staff for a career in care is the key to retaining staff.

However, apprenticeships take a long time to complete. While under apprenticeship, apprentices have few opportunities for career progress. A third of employees leave within a year of starting. The length of time that apprenticeships take to complete (between a year and 18 months) is an issue for care homes struggling with staff retention problems.

A better choice for many care homes may be fast-track NVQ Diplomas in Health and Social Care instead of apprenticeships. They provide employees with a nationally recognised qualification in as little as four months. Further progression can be made to suit the care worker by learning through the levels, all the way to Level 5 NVQ Diploma in Health and Social Care – perfect for future managers and leaders.

Customise your care home with customised capabilities

Having provided the foundation for your workers to provide acceptable levels of care, you may need to assess what skills will be required to step up to excellence in care provision.

The care needs of older people in care homes are evolving. Care home managers should consider onboarding the NICE quality standard “Mental wellbeing of older people in care homes”, in which it sets out six measurable statements aimed to improve health and care:

  1. Participating in meaningful activity
  2. Maintaining and developing personal identities
  3. Recognising mental health conditions
  4. Recognition of sensory impairment
  5. Recognition of physical problems
  6. Access to healthcare services

Extra coaching and training in dementia and mental health issues will upskill your care workers. They will have the abilities to provide the care needed by individual residents. This will ensure your care home has the capability to meet the needs of the UK’s ageing population.

Fast-track your care home capability

When your workers have the foundation of the NVQ Diploma in Health and Social Care, you can take them to the next stage faster – with targeted additional training in disciplines which include Dementia Awareness and Mental Health.

To find out more, and how your training needs could be fully funded from the WDF, contact StriveCare. We’ll help you put together a made-to-measure training strategy to add impetus to your business strategy for an ageing population.


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