MORE than 500 care home workers in Somerset are yet to receive a Covid vaccination – as fears grow of a national staffing shortage with the deadline looming for all staff to get vaccinated.
Under a decision passed by MPs in July, all eligible staff must be double-jabbed by November 11 in an older adult care home in a bid to protect residents.
But the move has been described as “ill-thought-out” by care sector leaders who fear a major staffing crisis.
NHS figures show in Somerset, 536 out of 6,682 eligible staff (8%), including agency workers, at older adult care homes had not received a first dose by August 22.
That proportion has fallen from mid-June, shortly after the legislation for mandatory vaccinations was announced, when 14% were unvaccinated.
Nadra Ahmed, chief executive of the National Care Association, said she was “extremely concerned” over the impact of unvaccinated workers being forced out of care homes, come the November deadline.
She said the industry was already struggling to fill 115,000 vacancies.
The Department of Health and Social Care estimates around 7% of the care industry workforce – around 40,000 workers – risk being lost as a result of making vaccination a condition of employment in care homes.
And a survey of 1,000 care managers by The Institute of Health and Social Care Management found more than half feared they would have to dismiss staff due to the requirement – a quarter expected to lose between 10% and 20% of staff.
Ms Ahmed said: “We are extremely concerned at the impact of this, which we believe was never properly thought through – we have a huge number of vacancies already and because of this legislation more people have left or are leaving.
“Some members of staff are not taking the vaccine for a number of reasons, personal and cultural, and their loss will be badly felt.
“The care sector has been discriminated against through this legislation, which only adds to the problems we already have of fatigue and vacancies.”
Ms Ahmed said she supported calls by the Independent Care Group for the Government to set up an emergency task force of volunteers to provide help to the industry.
The legislation was put forward by the Government following evidence of vaccine hesitancy among care staff in some areas of England.
It also followed advice from the Social Care Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) that 80% of staff in a care home needed to have received a first vaccination jab to ensure a minimum level of protection against outbreaks.
In Somerset, 140 (92%) out of 153 care homes were achieving that target by August 22.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “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 reduce the risk for vulnerable people.
“We continue to work to encourage adult social care and care home staff to get vaccinated in local areas where uptake is lower so that care homes are able to comply with the new regulations which come into force in November.”