England’s care homes are facing a staffing crisis which threatens to overwhelm the sector, as thousands of unvaccinated workers have just days left to get their first coronavirus jab or face the sack, a union has warned.
A “no jab no job” rule requires all of those working in care homes to be fully vaccinated by 11 November, but with an eight-week delay between the two doses staff must get their first vaccination by 16 September - less than a fortnight away - in order to comply.
Unison called on ministers to scrap the rule before this month’s deadline, warning that there could otherwise be widespread closure of care homes, which are already short of 110,000 workers.
The government’s own risk analysis, published when the policy was announced in July, found that up to 70,000 of England’s 570,000 care home workers could leave, at a cost of £100 million to the sector.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea warned that an exodus is already beginning of care home staff who want to remain in the job, but are hesitant about receiving the vaccine or feel they are being bullied.
She said ministers were “sleepwalking into disaster” by failing to lift the jab requirement.
The union has already received reports of care homes struggling to meet minimum staffing requirements. But Ms McAnea said there was no sign that the government has a realistic plan to deal with the fall-out of mass staff losses.
“Vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic,” said Ms McAnea. “But coercing and bullying people can never be the right approach.
“Ministers have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail. But they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring.
“The government is sleepwalking into this disaster by not acting. Care is already a broken and underfunded sector that cannot afford to lose any more staff.
“The government must scrap the ‘no jab, no job’ rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings. This would be disastrous for elderly people and those who cannot live without care support.”
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