Mandatory coronavirus vaccinations could lead to carers quitting, warns council

Vaccine

The council is concerned hundreds of carers may leave the profession if they are forced to have the Covid vaccine. - Credit: Pixabay

Forcing Somerset carers to receive the coronavirus vaccine before they can work in care homes could cause hundreds to quit, according to Somerset County Council.

Following recent changes in government legislation, all staff either working in or visiting care homes across the UK must have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine by November.

In Somerset, uptake of the vaccines has been reasonably high, with around 90 per cent of staff having received at least one dose.

But Somerset County Council has warned that this change in this law could lead to large numbers of carers and associated professionals leaving the service, putting further pressure on the social care system heading into the winter.

Under the new regulations, all care home staff must be double-jabbed by November 11 – including outside professionals who visit care homes to provide a service, such as hairdressers.

To achieve this, all staff in Somerset must have received their first dose by September 16, allowing for an eight-week gap between the two doses.

In Somerset, there are 7,897 staff employed in 'regulated care settings', looking after 4,848 residents.

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As of the end of August, 90.92 per cent of care home staff had received their first dose, and 84.51 per cent of staff had received both doses of the vaccine.

This compares to 95.79 per cent of residents having received their first dose and 94.1 per cent of residents having received both doses.

Niki Shaw, the council’s strategic manager for quality and performance in adult social care, told a meeting of the council’s adults and health scrutiny committee on Wednesday (September 8) that just under 10 per cent of staff had yet to be jabbed – the equivalent of around 600 people.

She said in her written report: “We are hopeful that a number of these will come forward for vaccination, and will repeat the monitoring exercise in September – but have to accept that we will lose a significant number of staff.

“There are at least 110,000 care staff vacancies already in the UK, and this is significantly impacting on the ability of local authorities and provider organisations to deliver packages of support.

“This is likely to worsen with mandatory vaccination, and that situation places the social care system at greater risk of being unable to source timely and appropriate packages of care.”

Of the remaining non-vaccinated staff, the council estimates that there are 17 internal staff who 'may be required to enter care homes to undertake assessments' but who have not been accepting vaccines.

Tim Baverstock, the council’s deputy director for adult social care, said the council had been trying to redeploy people to different parts of the care sector to ensure care homes were covered by appropriate staff.

He said: “It’s going to be tricky to shift that final block. We are anticipating 200-300 care home staff who may leave the sector.

“This rule only applies to care homes at the moment, so we have been able to move staff elsewhere.”

Councillor Ann Bown raised concerns about how well the NHS and social care would cope heading into the winter in light of this news.

She said: “We’ve got the winter period coming, and I’m concerned that with schools going bad Covid rates will get worse. That will put an onus on our care staff to work even harder.”

An update on staff vaccinations will come back to the committee at its next meeting in early-October.

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