Committee updated on recruitment challenges within Health & Social Care Service

A report was presented to members of the Health, Social Care & Wellbeing Committee, who met on Thursday 18 May, outlining the recruitment challenges being faced by the Health & Social Care sector nationally, more so locally in the Highlands and also acutely within the organisation.

The report outlined the risks to ongoing service delivery, with the current level of vacancies being experienced across Children’s Services (with a 41% vacancy rate), followed by Mental Health Officer provision (~35% vacancy rate) and to a lesser extent Justice Services.

In recognition of the mitigating actions to be actively undertaken over the medium to long-term to address the core issues impacting upon staff retention and recruitment, members were informed of a number of proposed strategies, including:

  • an improved recruitment strategy;
  • the ‘Grow our own’ policy (which is already underway and demonstrated within Social Worker and Mental Health Officer roles);
  • development of career paths;
  • reviewing longstanding vacancies to determine if work can be divided differently;
  • accessing the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) website for return to work Social Work Scheme; and
  • using promoted on social media platforms for advertising key posts.

Chair of the Health, Social Care & Wellbeing Committee, Councillor David Fraser, commented:  “The organisation is currently facing a very unique set of challenges, one which is particularly pronounced and exacerbated due to the rural nature of many communities within the Highlands. 

“We wholeheartedly support the existing health and social care workforce and recognise their tremendous efforts in maintaining safe levels of practice and high standards despite the squeeze on resources and a reduced overall workforce within the service.  Their additional efforts are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the public and all client groups are kept safe while we take steps to bring the situation onto a more steady-footing”.

Cllr Fraser continued:  “This report, while the reality is equally sobering and concerning, produced some valuable and varied debate across the Chamber.  Additionally, there were some worthy contributions put forward to compliment the strategies already under consideration to tackle the core issues – these will be explored and considered for feasibility".

Following discussion and debate, members concluded that the risk is such that the next meeting of the Audit & Scrutiny Committee (scheduled for 15 June) will be asked to consider the inclusion of this risk on the Corporate Risk Register.  In doing so, Highland Council would clearly be recognising its role and responsibility in accepting ownership of the risk and that the burden of this does not sit on the shoulders of staff.

Those who are interested in a career in the health and social care section can view Highland Council vacancies by visiting the MyJobScotland website:

22 May 2023