Making Covid vaccines compulsory for care home workers had little effect on boosting uptake, industry insiders say amid fears forcing the jabs on NHS workers will also be futile.
Ministers have made it a legal requirement for all care home staff to get their second jab by November 11 or face losing their job, with the hope of boosting uptake and protecting vulnerable residents.
But care bosses told MailOnline today the policy failed in its main objective of boosting uptake and was enforced ‘without considering’ the consequences. Critics warn it will exacerbate staffing shortages.
Latest figures suggest just 30,000 care home workers have come forward for their first vaccine since parliament voted to make vaccination compulsory in July.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group — which represents providers in Yorkshire, said making jabs compulsory only had ‘a little bit of an effect’ on the 1.5million-strong sector.
Health chiefs are also on the verge of introducing the ‘no jab, no job’ policy in the NHS ahead of what is expected to be a challenging winter, despite calls to postpone the move until April to avoid a staff exodus. More than nine in 10 NHS staff are already jabbed.
Care home employees will be required to be double-jabbed to keep working in the sector from next week, but a loophole could see unvaccinated employees continue working in the sector until two days before Christmas. Care bosses fear this could spark a ‘mass exodus’ just ahead of Christmas Day — derailing family plans.
The above graph shows the proportion of staff working in care homes for the over-65s who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine. It reveals that there was no sharp surge in uptake when the jabs were made compulsory
Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)
A care source representing homes in England who asked not to be named told MailOnline: ‘You ask where making jabs mandatory has boosted uptake. It hasn’t done.
‘We were initially aiming to get about 80 per cent uptake, and the figures show the numbers getting vaccinated have risen since they were made a requirement.
‘But we have found that calm persuasion was a lot more important for getting people vaccinated than making it mandatory.’
Delay making Covid vaccines compulsory for NHS workers until April, health chief says
Making Covid vaccines compulsory for NHS staff should be delayed until the spring because of the ‘very, very’ difficult winter ahead, a health chief said yesterday.
Ministers have just finished a consultation on whether doctors and nurses should be forced to get their jabs, with staff refuse potentially facing the sack.
Last week Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted he was ‘leaning towards’ the ‘no jab, no job’ policy in England, where 100,000 staff are still yet to get their first dose.
But yesterday Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said any deadline should be delayed until April next year so that there are enough workers for winter.
Unions fear hospitals could be left even shorter staffed between January and March — their most difficult time of year — if the plans are brought in.
Mr Hopson also said NHS staff deserved the same ‘five-month’ run up to jabs being made compulsory as those working in the social care sector.
Ministers announced in June care home workers would need to be fully vaccinated or potentially lose their jobs, but gave them until November 11 to get jabbed.
Care worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, has said she is resigned to losing her job this week because she was not prepared to get the vaccine.
And Mr Hopson said in Cornwall some homes are already having to draft in nurses from nearby hospitals because of the staffing shortages.
The insider said the ‘no jab, no job’ policy was already ‘crippling’ for some care homes because thousands of staff had quit since the jabs became compulsory in July. It’s unclear exactly how many have already left on the back of the new rule.
Some homes in Cornwall are also having to draft in nurses from nearby hospitals to make up for shortfalls.
Although the rule requiring care home staff to be double-vaccinated will come into force for November 11, staff will still be able to apply for an exemption.
This could see un-jabbed employees continuing to work in the sector until December 23, while they wait for their application for an exemption to be reviewed and approved.
‘The Christmas period is quite dodgy,’ the source told MailOnline. ‘This is when we expect people to leave in droves.’
Care sector stakeholders have already called for the December 23 deadline to be extended to avoid any chaos over the Christmas period.
Asked whether making jabs compulsory boosted uptake, Mr Padgham said: ‘My gut feeling is it has probably changed a few minds, but not completely.
‘I’ve been in Government meetings where they said they expect to lose up to 40,000 staff from the sector come the middle of this month. That’s a big hole.
‘When something is made compulsory it does put people off even more.’
Mr Padgham was also against mirroring the move in the NHS, saying that quietly convincing people to get the jab had a more positive effect.
Pressed on whether vaccines should be compulsory for the NHS, he said: ‘ Well my own opinion is I think everyone should be vaccinated. But I think it has to be a matter of personal choice in a democracy, it should be your choice.’
Gavin Edwards, the care spokesperson for UNISON which represents employees in the sector, said: ‘Jab rates were steadily rising and although the threat of being sacked will have persuaded some staff, it’s also prompted many others to leave.
‘If the Government had spent the past four months persuading and tackling the concerns of care workers in areas of low take-up, there would now be an even higher level of staff vaccinated.
‘That’s precisely what happened in the care sector in Scotland and Wales, and throughout the NHS.
‘Instead, this policy has caused alarm and worsened the staffing crisis. Losing one in twenty workers will damage care quality and leave many of those dependent on support with nowhere to turn.’
Care homes were already facing a staffing crisis before the compulsory vaccine requirement was introduced, with more than 170,000 vacancies across England.
Some 411,000 of 462,000 staff working in care homes for the over-65s (88.9 per cent) have already received two doses of the vaccine. And nearly 437,000 (or 94.5 per cent) have already received their first jab.
But figures show no dramatic spike in uptake when MPs approved the plans, despite more than one in ten care home workers still being un-vaccinated at the time. There are still 25,000 employees who are yet to get their first dose.
Covid vaccines are set to be compulsory for social care workers from next week. Pictured above is care home worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, who has said she is prepared to lose her job instead of getting the vaccine
Care home worker, 36, would rather lose job than get Covid vaccine
A care home worker has said she would rather lose her job than get the Covid vaccine.
Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, has worked in the sector for almost a decade and a half.
She currently gets tested for the virus three times a week and wears PPE in the home.
But from next week she will be unable to work in the sector, when vaccines become compulsory for staff.
She told HullLive: ‘I genuinely love my job with all my heart, I only earn minimum wage so believe me it isn’t the money keeping me there.
‘But November 5 will be one of the hardest days of my life when I have to say my goodbyes to all my lovely residents.
‘When I have to leave that building at the end of my final shift knowing that I can no longer return as an employee, all because apparently now I’m not good enough to protect them due to refusing the vaccines.
‘This choice should be my basic human right. I do not deserve to be punished for saying “no”.’
Ms Akester said she didn’t want to get the Covid vaccine until more was known about the ‘potential long-term side effects’.
Rigorous scientific studies have found the three jabs in use in the UK — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — are safe and slash someone’s risk of hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus.
They were first rolled out in clinical trials more than a year ago.
More than nine in ten adults — or over 45million people — have got at least one dose.
The Department of Health announced it would seek to make Covid vaccines compulsory for care home staff in June, following a consultation.
Then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the time it would ‘keep reducing the risk’ for residents in care homes.
Parliament voted in favour of the plans on July 13, but many MPs slammed the move because ministers had failed to publish an impact assessment.
A second consultation has now been concluded to consider whether all NHS staff should also be told to get the Covid and flu vaccines or lose their jobs.
Current Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said he is ‘leaning towards’ the ‘no jab, no job’ policy for hospital staff.
But yesterday Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, argued any move should be delayed until April because of the difficult winter ahead.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We know — and the chief medical officer has said this really clearly — that we’ve got a very, very difficult winter coming up and we know the NHS is going to be absolutely at full stretch.
‘So, it makes sense to set the deadline once that winter period has passed.
‘We know that January, February, often early March is very busy, so that’s why we’re saying today that we think an April 2022 deadline is a sensible time.’
Mr Hopson added: ‘If we lose very large numbers of staff over the winter period, then our ability to provide care is also compromised.’
There were almost 100,000 vacancies in England’s NHS between April and June last year, official figures show.
And care homes were also short of almost 112,000 workers, with bosses warning the ‘no jab, no job’ policy would exacerbate the crisis.
In the NHS there are some 105,000 employees — more than the entire vacancy list — that are yet to get their first dose of the vaccine.
Some 89 per cent of staff (1.3 out of 1.45million employees) have already got two doses, and 1.34million have got their first dose.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association has warned that with ‘severe workforce shortages’ in the NHS ‘any reduction in healthcare workers could be devastating for patient services as we face a record backlog of care and winter pressures’.
He said: ‘The Government should explore options for those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons or may refuse, including, for example, remote working, possible redeployment, greater PPE protection and more regular testing.’
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people.
‘Over 90 per cent of care home staff have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine and we are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high quality care.’