Mandatory vaccine deadline for care home workers ‘should be extended’ amid fears of exodus

The Government has said it expects its mandatory vaccination policy to help reduce shortages from care home staff being off due to coronavirus, ahead of a feared exodus next week.

Tens of thousands of care home staff could be dismissed from next Thursday – the deadline for care home staff in England to be double jabbed.

Latest figures from NHS England, up to October 24, suggest that 11% of staff in older age care homes (around 51,000 staff) had not received two vaccine doses as of October 24.

The figures suggest almost a quarter (24.8%) of staff working in younger adult care homes and domiciliary care providers have not had both jabs – 119,916 staff.

Part of the Government’s adult social care winter plan, published on Wednesday, reads: “We expect the introduction of vaccination requirements for care home workers from 11 November 2021, and the possible expansion to other social care settings (subject to consultation) to help address reductions in capacity that would otherwise arise due to staff becoming ill from the virus or needing to isolate, though we recognise the potential for staffing issues where affected care home workers chose to leave the sector.”

The Government’s consultation on extending the mandatory vaccination requirement to NHS and wider social care staff ended on October 22.

According to reports, the Government is planning to introduce compulsory vaccines from April for NHS workers in England.

Care leaders called for next week’s deadline to be extended for care home workers so the sector can get through the winter with the NHS.

Mike Padgham (pictured), chairman of the Independent Care Group, said of the reports: “It doesn’t make sense to have the NHS (deadline) next April and us next week, because we support each other.”

He told the PA news agency: “I know from local pressure that the NHS needs to discharge into community with care homes and home care, and I think there’s a big worry that if there aren’t the staff there, they won’t be able to do that.”

Mr Padgham said he does not think the Government realises “how many providers are teetering on the edge of not being able to continue”.

He continued: “We’re losing services as opposed to generating them and I know some care contracts are being handed back.

“So it’s only, in my view, likely to get worse.”

Adam Purnell, director of social care at the Institute of Health and Social Care Management, said the prospect of losing tens of thousands of social care staff next week is “very concerning”.

He told PA: “It’s going to be very difficult in the next few weeks for the managers in social care, and I fear that something like this… it’s just going to further the divide between the two sectors when actually what we need now is cohesion and clarity.”

Mr Purnell also said it is a “mistake” to expect that mandating the vaccine will address capacity gaps due to staff sickness, as they will continue to get ill from other viruses and bugs.

He said: “Couple that with the leaving of staff, sickness is going to become an even bigger issue.

“Burnout, mental health, other common ailments are all going to feel heightened now that there are less people working in the sector.”

The winter plan also sets out how the sector will have £388.3 million in further funding to support infection prevention, testing and vaccination uptake, a further £478 million to continue enhanced hospital discharge support until March 2022 and free protective equipment until at least next March.

This is in addition to a £162.5 million recruitment and retention fund, while the Government has also launched a recruitment campaign on TV and social media.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, said: “Calling this a social care winter plan beggars belief.

“There is no extra support, and precious little detail on how the Government intend to address overwhelming staff shortages, local authority services being pushed to breaking point, and more and more people going without the care they need.

“There’s no new long-term funding, no detailed plan to transform the pay, training and terms and conditions of staff, no new support for councils to deliver care, and nothing to support the unpaid family carers, who put their own health to one side to look after their loved ones.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Independent Care Group.