Care home vaccination ruling brings staffing fears

A government mandate that all care home employees must be vaccinated by November could lead to a staffing crisis.

Southend Council’s adult social care team have highlighted a current staffing shortage which has been made worse by the pandemic with staff isolating after being alerted by the NHS COVID tracing app.

Southend’s people scrutiny committee heard on Wednesday that in addition to the shortage, low numbers of agency staff who have been double jabbed could cause further problems. From November those working in care homes have to be double jabbed. The vaccine has not been mandatory for those caring for the elderly in their own homes but agencies are likely to require them to be fully vaccinated.

While 92 per cent of council care staff have had one jab and 83 per cent have had a second dose, only 44 per cent of agency, bank and temporary staff have received their first vaccine and just 32 per cent have had their second jab.

Councillor James Courtenay, (Con, Chalkwell) said: “Over 40 per cent of our staff are agency staff but less than 50 per cent of those had one vaccine. I appreciate the transient nature of those staff but when we do have the pingdemic that’s likely to increase and that seems a worryingly low percentage.

“It’s one of the very few professions where they will be required to be double vaccinated so you would like to think if that’s their profession that that percentage would be higher.

“It seems quite low to me and I do hope we do as much as we can to ensure that number goes up because a percentage of staff are not going to have a job come November but also we’ve got potentially a crunch point where those agency staff are not going to be able to fill the gap and we are going to have a real problem.”

Tandra Forster, the council’s executive director for adults and communities, said: “We are having particular challenges currently, particularly with home care we’ve got issues with the amount of staffing. I would see that as a temporary challenge. In the long term we want to do more to have improvements for the workforce and to look at the market provision for individuals. Things are improving.

“The manadatory vaccines will apply to staff in care homes. We do track that and there is ongoing work with our colleagues in the clinical commissioning group to try and increase the number of vaccinations.

90 per cent of staff in care homes have had the first dose and roughly approaching the double dose as well.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter