Minister warns NHS faces winter capacity crisis because of care home staffing shortage, not Covid

The NHS faces a bed-blocking and capacity crisis this winter because of a staff shortage in care homes, ministers have been warned.

The Government was told by Conservative MP Mark Harper that “inadequate social care” is “going to be” the cause of pressure for the health service this winter rather than Covid, with care workers likely to leave the profession because they are unwilling to have the mandatory coronavirus jab.

“If the NHS is going to be under enormous pressure this winter it doesn’t look to me like it is going to be from Covid. It is going to be from inadequate social care,” said Forest of Dean MP Mr Harper after the Government’s decision to make Covid vaccines mandatory for care staff.

The comments came as Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave MPs an update on the Government’s plans to give over-40s the Covid booster jab this winter, in an effort to increase immunity rates in the face of another winter wave of the pandemic.

Former minister Mr Harper (pictured) pointed to an impact assessment on making jabs mandatory for NHS workers, in which the Department for Health and Social Care predicted 35,000 social care workers would quit as a result of not wanting to get the mandatory jab.

He said: “Why that matters is I have got about three times the number of patients in my local acute hospital who can’t be discharged because there is no adequate social care.”

Mr Javid replied “patient safety” was central to the mandatory vaccination programme.

He added: “We are giving record amounts of support to the adult social care sector.

“The funding is a huge part of that, both funding that is going in to the sector so they can build capacity but also funding that is going to the NHS through the discharge fund, which is hundreds of millions of pounds which they can use to support early discharge into care homes.”

Elsewhere in the debate, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned Mr Javid the “NHS across the piece is in crisis”.

Calling on Mr Javid to address the pressure on the NHS, Mr Ashworth said there are “pockets of the country where vaccination at second dose level is nowhere near where it ought to be”, adding that in the borough of Westminster “only 52% of residents have had their second dose”.

The Government’s mandatory vaccine requirement for staff in registered care homes kicked in on November 11.

It means that staff must have been double jabbed, or be medically exempt, to continue working in care homes.

The regulations also cover any worker, including NHS staff, tradespeople and inspectors, who needs to enter a care home as part of their employment.

Frontline NHS staff will also be required to have been vaccinated in England from April next year.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA.