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New research by the leading carers’ charity Carers UK estimates nearly a quarter of a million NHS workers (247,000) in England are juggling work and caring for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill.

It shows one in five of the NHS workforce is an unpaid carer, compared with the national workforce average of one in seven.

Given the high proportion of female workers in the NHS and that women are more likely to provide unpaid care than men, women working for the NHS are more likely to give up work to care.

The research suggests the NHS is at a greater risk of losing valuable staff because of unpaid caring responsibilities. The charity estimates 72,000 NHS workers have quit their job to care, 60,000 of them women.

Carers UK is highlighting the need for the health service to support the huge number of its staff with caring responsibilities to stay in the workforce and hopes to see this laid out in the forthcoming NHS Workforce Plan for England.

The charity wants to see new research on carers carried out from the next NHS England staff survey and clear policies to support them in the workplace.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“With such a high proportion of unpaid carers in its workforce, the NHS should be striving to lead by example and become the most carer friendly health service in the world.

“The NHS Workforce Plan is a key opportunity to deliver much better support. Carer friendly policies and practices, including paid care leave of between five and 10 days, go a long way a long way to supporting employees to juggle work and care without putting their own careers and health at risk.”

NHS organisations are being urged to sign up to Carers UK’s business forum, Employers for Carers, and its new UK-wide benchmarking scheme Carer Confident[1]. The scheme recognises and accredits UK employers who have built carer friendly and inclusive workplaces.

The NHS Workforce Plan is expected to be published by NHS England shortly.


[1] Carer Positive is a benchmarking scheme for employers in Scotland supporting carers in the workplace.

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