An army of volunteers could be needed this winter to tackle rising staff shortages in care homes fuelled by the looming requirement for all care home workers to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus, providers have said.
As the health secretary, Sajid Javid, urged care workers to book their jabs in time to meet the 11 November deadline for all staff in registered care homes in England to be fully vaccinated, the Independent Care Group said operators could be forced to hand back contracts to councils or close care homes and relocate residents because of a staffing crisis, exacerbated by ongoing vaccine hesitancy among a minority of staff. It is leading calls for retired nurses, doctors, carers, to be trained and DBS-checked to fill vacancies in case of a feared “winter meltdown” in staff numbers.
One in five workers on the books of a care worker agency in Sheffield are declining the vaccine, according to Nicola Richards, the director of Palms Row Healthcare. She also reported an “alarming” drop in the number of workers signing up, with many put off by the “no jab, no job” policy. She has been unable to provide temporary staff to some clients in recent weeks.
The government last month calculated that in a worst-case scenario as many as 68,000 care workers – up to 12% – could be lost as a result of the decision to make vaccination a condition of employment in care homes. A more likely prediction is 40,000, but care managers say that even small numbers of people refusing the vaccine will impact services because rotas are already threadbare, with well over 100,000 vacancies in the sector.