Health and social care

Health and social care is one of the largest employment sectors in Great Britain. The sector is rapidly growing with forecasts of an additional 1 million workers needed in social care alone by 2025.

The social care sector includes public, private, partnership and voluntary organisations. It is dominated by micro and small employers, providing residential and nursing care places and domiciliary care. Care assistants and home carers are one of the largest occupational groups in Great Britain. Approximately 20 per cent of residential care workers are non-UK qualified. The majority of the workforce is employed in the community. The move to individual budgets, held by those in need of care, has lead to an increased number of self-employed and agencies employing care workers. Our web pages provide guidance on how health and safety law applies to domiciliary carers.

The NHS is one of the largest employers worldwide. It and private healthcare organisations employ significant numbers of migrant workers, directly or through agencies. Occupations include nurses and auxiliaries, ancillary and facilities staff and medical practitioners. Over a third of medical staff are non-UK qualified. Use of migrant labour is more common in certain areas of the UK, such as London.

The health and social care sectors have faced staffing and skills shortages, because of a rapid growth in demand for services and reduced employment retention rates. In the future, the sector will need to replace substantial numbers of workers, mostly due to retirement.

The main causes of injury and ill health to workers in these sectors are work related stress, manual handling, musculoskeletal disorders, slips and trips, dermatitis and violence. More information is available on our web pages

Risks to migrant workers must be effectively managed. Health and social care providers must also ensure the safety of patients and service users. Migrant workers may be unfamiliar with equipment, procedures and clinical practices used in the UK. It is therefore essential that employers ensure competence and a clear understanding of practices and procedures.

Employers should ensure that communication is effective, taking into account language skills and cultural differences. Good communication, both between staff and between staff and patients, is essential for patient and service user safety.

The GMC requires medical practitioners to pass an English language test. The NHS website provides information on this and registration of healthcare professionals to practice in the UK.

Further guidance on international recruitment is available from NHS Employers