Call for urgent vaccines for care home staff due to rise in virus cases
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Care homes in North Somerset are at breaking point due to a rising number of staff and residents contracting the virus – according to sector experts.
Gordon Butcher, regional chairman of the Registered Nursing Home Association, says care homes and staff are ‘dropping like flies’ and is pushing for staff to be given 'highest priority' for the vaccine.
He said: “We have a fast-deteriorating crisis within the care sector and acutes in the North Somerset region.
“I had a provider on the phone in tears as the majority of her staff and most of the residents have contracted the virus.
“The provider went in to support the staff and has now tested positive. That is being repeated in several homes, where the owners have come in to support staff only to contract the virus.
“I’ve been on the phone to two homes this morning that are currently crippled by the virus.
“They are struggling to get agency staff and, if they are successful, the fees will be through the roof as they will charge a Covid premium.
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“Homes and staff are now going down like flies.”
Mr Butcher has warned of a ‘ticking time bomb’ in the care sector.
He added: “Every provider I speak to echo they are worried they will be next; the longer it goes on the greater the odds a home will contract it.
“The only resolve is for all care staff to get vaccinated ASAP.
"Even if we all got the vaccine today it would take two months for staff to have full immunity.
“We have been informed that at present there are no immediate plans to vaccinate residents; so that makes it even more crucial that staff receive the vaccine."
Vaccinations for people over 80 in the community began last week, but a number of care homes said they had not heard about details for staff.
Health leaders stressed care home staff and residents are 'very much a priority' and confirmed a small number of staff are being given access to vaccinations at Southmead Hospital each day, while more convenient plans are put in place.
A spokesman for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed the NHS will contact people in priority groups when it is their turn to receive the vaccine.