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a blog by Chris Barrow


I had just completed a Zoom call with a client at 16:30 yesterday, and was preparing to take the dogs for their afternoon walk, when Annie and I were invited to join the 700,000+ people who have been pinged by NHS Test & Trace and invited to isolate until next Tuesday.

Clearly, someone on EasyJet flight EZY 1992 from Kefalonia to Manchester last Friday has tested positive and so we are all grounded.

We will be off for our 5th PCR test at 08:00 this morning and shall have to wait and see what that brings.

For us, it's a slight inconvenience as we have neither children, aged relatives nor employment to worry about. Stand-in dog walkers have been arranged and online shopping ordered. We will both be working online for the duration (as usual). Look out Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and Apple TV.

I was looking forward to a face to face with Ashley Latter and Catherine McCanny on Saturday morning, to discuss a charity day she is organising later this year - alas we shall have to make do with Zoom.

My next business trip "out, out" is Friday of next week, so provided I test negative today, all should be well.

The experience does, however, a timely reminder of the disruption faced by others (including my clients) when the dreaded "ping" happens.

Employment problems do, however, go deeper.

When furlough ends in September, it is estimated that 1.9 million people furloughed and 1.6 million out of work will be available to fill around 860,000 job vacancies (as reported by The Saturday Economist on 31st July).

That sounds encouraging until further examination reveals a particular problem in the health and social care sector, where the trend is reversed and 70,000 people ending furlough will be available for 153,000 vacancies.

Two jobs for every one person.

To quote the newsletter, "The Recruitment Crisis will continue in health and social care long after the pandemic and pingdemic impacts have faded."

Cue a recruitment crisis in UK dentistry (I suspect I didn't need to tell you that).

Here's a quote from one of my clients two days ago:

"For me the job market is a major issue.

In Nov 2020 we advertised for a receptionist via an online platform. Th advert was live for less than 24 hours. We had well over 300 suitable replies.

New receptionist left after 4 months for a job next to her home with a significantly higher salary. I could not compete.

We advertised for a replacement in April - about 50 replies.

In May we advertised for a trainee nurse - about 60 replies - only 10 or so suitable.

The new nurse is now leaving as she has just lost her accommodation and a cousin has offered her a free flat in Liverpool!

We are now re-advertising and after 4 days only one suitable candidate.

We are looking for a second part-time hygienist. Nothing available for love nor money.

The locum market for nurses and hygienists is very very tight and we do not get a regular supply.

I make sure I pay all the agency fees immediately to ensure I stay in their good books.

The job market and mobility is just dire!!"

We have a recruitment and retention crisis on our hands.

Last night I shared with my clients (on our weekly webinar) some thoughts about how best to react and respond.

Here are some sure things:

  • Payroll and hiring costs are going up;

  • You will have to either absorb that cost and make less profit or..

  • Pass that cost on to the patients ASAP.

Welcome to extraordinary - there is no "new normal".

I shall sit here in my splendid isolation and thank about what that means over the next few days.

Wish me luck at the testing station.

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