Mandatory vaccinations: Northants could face care staff crisis

Fears mandatory vaccinations could lead to staffing shortages in care homes

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By Natalie Bloomer

Care homes in the county could face a staffing crisis in the coming months due to new Covid rules, a local union has warned.

From November 11 staff who haven’t had both Covid vaccination jabs will not be allowed to enter a care home. The cut off point to receive their first dose is next Thursday (September 16). But with some workers still unhappy about the new rules there are concerns the sector could be ‘overwhelmed’ by staff shortages.

The union Unison says they are hearing from a significant number of members in Northamptonshire that they would rather lose their job than have the vaccine. 

‘A crisis waiting to happen’

“Our caseworkers are hearing that some care homes could see up to 20 per cent of staff refusing the vaccine” Kevin Standishday, Northants Unison branch secretary said. 

“I spoke to a member recently who told me she would rather lose her job and home than have the vaccine.

“As we head into autumn with possibly more Covid and flu cases it’s a crisis waiting to happen. It could be the perfect storm. The government announces these things without any proper understanding of what will happen.”

Gary Mitchell, a Unison caseworker in Northampton says around 30 per cent of the calls he and his colleague have received in the last two weeks have been about the new rules. 

“This is a sector which is already stretched. Staff have worked right through the pandemic and they are upset that they could now lose their jobs if they don’t have the vaccine,” he said.

“There are various reasons why people don’t want to have it. This is going to be a really difficult situation for staff and employers. Right now we’re waiting for more details about exemptions and how all this will work as we get closer to the cut off date in November.”

Among the concerns given to the union for not having the vaccine are religious reasons, fears around safety and the impact on future pregnancies (the NHS says there is no evidence that the vaccine has an effect on the chances of becoming pregnant).

Deputy leader of the Labour group in Northamptonshire Emma Roberts says more clarity is needed about how care homes will deal with workers who are not vaccinated.

“There are real concerns that care homes could lose valuable staff. If this happens how will we make sure they are staffed properly?

“I think there needs to be clarity about how this will work, what if someone hasn’t had their first vaccine by the 16th but has it booked in soon after?”

An ‘exodus’ of staff

Unison nationally has called for the laws to be repealed ‘to avert a staffing crisis that threatens to overwhelm the sector.’ The union says that an ‘exodus’ of staff has already begun with some care homes in the country struggling to meet the correct staffing levels. 

The government’s own assessment of the impact of mandatory vaccines estimates that the care sector could lose up to 70,000 workers across England as a result of the new guidelines. 

It is expected that a consultation will be launched shortly on whether similar rules should be extended to NHS workers. 

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said:

“Vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic. But coercing and bullying people can never be the right approach.

“Ministers have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail. But they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring.

“The government is sleepwalking into this disaster by not acting. Care is already a broken and underfunded sector that cannot afford to lose any more staff.

“The government must scrap the ‘no jab, no job’ rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings. This would be disastrous for elderly people and those who cannot live without care support.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:

“We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the social care workforce and are working with local authorities and providers to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands.

“The vast majority of care staff are already vaccinated and we are focusing on encouraging even more staff to get jabbed to protect their colleagues and those they care for.

“Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk for vulnerable people in care homes.”

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