Proposals to introduce mandatory vaccination for care staff are an “appalling” idea, a specialist care leader has said.
The comment came from Neil Russell, head of PJ Care, a provider of care for adults with degenerative conditions such as dementia, Huntingdon’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and those with acquired brain injuries.
Neil, who was the first of his staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at Milton Keynes Hospital, says making vaccination compulsory would have disastrous effects on the industry.
“The sector could lose enough staff to embroil an already underfunded industry in a recruitment war as homes seek to fill vacancies,” Neil said.
“This would result in financial problems for many homes, causing closures and people in need of care having nowhere to go, but into hospitals that are already struggling with bed availability.”
The Department of Health and Social Care is considering compulsory vaccinations for staff in settings caring for at least one person over the age of 65 as this age is group is more at risk from coronavirus.
The Social Care Working Group of SAGE has advised that an uptake rate of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in every care home would be needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19. At the beginning of this month, the vaccination rate among care home staff stood at 78.9% with figures in some regions being considerably lower.
Neil added: “We must ask why the government is only looking at imposing the vaccine on care workers in homes with anyone over the age of 65 and not elsewhere such as homes with younger vulnerable adults or hospitals where patients are more vulnerable. Not enough is known about the vaccine yet to be able to evidence its effect on transmission rates so even with all staff vaccinated, the risk to those in their care remains the same and staff will still need to wear full PPE and follow strict infection control measures.
“While vaccinating care workers is important, greater protection can be achieved by ensuring the residents are vaccinated, combined with diligent infection control measures and effective use of PPE. That’s the way I believe we will best protect the vulnerable in all our care facilities.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and we urge all social care staff to come forward for their jab, if they haven’t already.
“We have visited every eligible care home in England, offered vaccines to all staff, and continue to work closely with the care sector and local leaders to maximise vaccination numbers and save thousands of lives.
“Our priority is ensuring people in care homes are properly protected and we have launched a consultation to get the views from people in the sector on whether to introduce vaccines as a condition of deployment for those caring for adults as a way to help further protect our most vulnerable.”