Tens of thousands of care home residents face losing vital support as unvaccinated carers clock off for the last time before double jabs become mandatory.
Acerca de 50,000 care home staff who have not had two doses in Inglaterra will not be allowed to work from Thursday. Analysis by the Guardian suggests that on current staff/resident ratios without other measures to tackle the problem, the care of about 30,000 people could be affected.
Care operators and health chiefs have warned staff shortfalls could prevent thousands of people from being discharged from hospitals this winter, limiting admissions and clogging up wards. They say it will increase pressure on remaining care staff to work longer hours, despite many being already exhausted.
One of the largest not-for-profit operators, MHA, estimates that about 750 care homes may have already stopped taking new admissions because of the staffing crisis. Seven of its homes are closed to new entrants and it is losing up to 150 staff because of the vaccine policy this week.
“It is scary as we head into winter and the concern is there will be a buildup of people in hospital who can’t be discharged,” said Sam Monaghan, MHA chief executive. The National Care Forum said providers are running at 17% average staff vacancy rates.
Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare organisations, said people who were medically fit to leave risked longer hospital stays than necessary at a time when capacity was crucial.
“As we head towards what could be the most challenging winter on record, we hope the government has assessed the possible knock-on impact of this policy," él dijo.
The Department of Salud and Social Care has said councils will help care operators with staff shortages, that it has provided town halls with over £1bn of additional funding for social care this year and is running a TV recruitment campaign.
Mandatory double vaccination for care workers in homes for older and younger adults has boosted vaccine protection with close to nine out of 10 staff getting both jabs. But in areas including Thurrock, Nottingham and Manchester, a fifth of staff are still not fully protected. NHS staff and domiciliary care staff who look after people in their own homes will not need to be fully vaccinated until 1 abril 2022, the government announced on Tuesday.
Claire Callender, 42, a short-staffed care home manager in Warwickshire, who has already closed 12 of her 27 bedrooms, said she was laying off another care worker on Wednesday because of the vaccine.
"Los [situation] is absolutely ridiculous,” Callender said. “I have to turn a healthcare worker away if they are not vaccinated but not visitors [who do not need vaccination].
Katie Madden, who worked night shifts at the Greenways care home, cried when she told the Guardian about leaving. She worked through a Covid outbreak at the home and was sick with the virus for weeks. She had planned to get the vaccine but was anxious about it making her ill again. “The decision was taken out of my hands … and I thought, no, I’m not ready," ella dijo.
She washes residents, prepares them for bed and checks on them through the night. “This is a job I am going to be really upset about leaving," ella dijo. “I built a relationship with them all. We were all there through thick and thin when everyone was poorly … I could have run away when there was coronavirus, but the old people were getting it and it was breaking my heart. But I went there, breaking my back to help and it turns from that to – ‘you can go now’. I feel really let down.”
Neil Russell, the chairman of PJ Care, which provides neurological care for adults, said he was losing 14 staff across three sites on Wednesday and potentially another dozen by 24 December unless they could persuade doctors they are medically exempt. Carers are allowed to self-certify a medical exemption until Christmas, but must leave after date if it is not confirmed.
Those leaving this week are going to new jobs including in the NHS and handling parcels at Amazon and John Lewis warehouses, él dijo.
The Care Quality Commission, which regulates care homes, will enforce the vaccine mandate with “a proportionate approach, to ensure the welfare and safety of people who use services”, it has told operators.
“We will always treat each matter individually and consider the individual circumstances when undertaking an assessment and deciding on any possible next steps," decía.