Care homes are losing workers as many staff, some of whom do not yet wish to be vaccinated against Covid-19, are leaving their jobs for roles in other healthcare settings.
Director of Sheffield Care Association, Nicola Richards, who is also managing director of two care homes and a home care agency, told BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour on 12 November that the previous day she had had to dismiss two valued members of staff because of the vaccination ruling.
She said: “There were tears from staff and residents. It was heartbreaking. One [of the care workers] had experienced a really bad reaction to the first jab and just couldn’t bring herself to go through with the next one.”
The other employee, said Richards, had worked for the home for eight years without missing a shift. She had suffered from anxiety throughout the pandemic and now felt very angry about being discriminated against by the vaccination ruling. “She just wanted more time [to take the vaccine],” Richards said.
She pointed out that care home residents often spent time in hospital where, until 1 April, they will be looked after by people who have not necessarily been double jabbed. This situation was discriminatory, she said.
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association said she was “at a loss to understand why the care home sector had been singled out and discriminated against – when you think about the numbers getting Covid in hospital then being discharged into care homes”.
It felt as if the care home sector was being blamed: “We were the ones who needed sorting out quickly,” she said, despite for much of the pandemic being left without PPE and having patients dropped off at care homes from hospitals with Covid, putting staff and other residents in danger.
She said that suitably qualified care home workers were leaving the sector to work in the NHS and private health. They were unlikely to return, whatever their feelings on having to be vaccinated. “I doubt people in NHS will come back to care home sector after 1 April … they will have better pay and conditions that may sway [their vaccine] decision. We are not able to recruit easily despite running a recruitment campaign.
“In the care sector if there are no staff we can’t deliver the care.”
Richards added that the jab was only one part of keeping residents safe. She acknowledged that everyone should be vaccinated, but added: “We can still transmit Covid even with the vaccine. We feel we’re being discriminated against. Our staff know that residents go to hospital and are cared for by people who have not had the jab then come back.”
“We were doing really well but the consultation [on mandatory vaccination] made people feel discriminated against so nurses left care homes for the NHS.”
Richards said her business had lost 20% of its workforce during the pandemic and warned that with care homes unable to accept more residents, the NHS and communities would be under huge pressure. “We have been asking government to pause this but they haven’t listened and now winter looks very bleak,” she added.
“The situation is chronic at the moment. There’s a huge shortage of skilled professional care workers. It will absolutely get worse towards Christmas.”