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Care homes square up to COVID vaccination curve-ball

By freelance social care writer Eleanore Robinson

Care home operators were thrown a curveball by the Government when it ruled that all members of staff must have received both Covid-19 vaccines by November 11.

As the September 16 deadline for having the first vaccine approaches, the move has had different impacts among care home operators.

For sole providers, which make up the majority of the care home market, losing even one member of staff can have a huge effect.  

Red Rocks Nursing Home on the Wirral has already lost an RGN who refused to have the vaccination and subsequently resigned.

Owner Mike Vaughan said he has been running an advert for a new RGN for four weeks without interest.

He said: “There is just not the pool of people there.”

Vaughan added that if they weren’t able to recruit enough nurses, he would have to look at the home just providing residential care.

He said that there has been a 96.2 per cent take up of the vaccine within the home but he believes a take up rate of 80 per cent was reasonable in his view.

“I would like 100 per cent but I’m not going to get that”, he said. “I think we all need a bit of slack.”

The residents and their families have a strong relationship with the home, which is primarily private-pay – and its staff. There have not been any safety concerns raised, Vaughan added.

Family communications
At Orchard Care Homes it has been a priority to keep existing and potential residents and their families up to date with the vaccination status of staff across its estate of 24 facilities.

It has used the same approach with councils placing residents with them.

Orchard’s director of people and talent Rebecca Dobson said: “We have been open and transparent with our partners regarding staff’s vaccination status and COVID-19 safety processes within our homes. This will have instilled confidence in our ability to safely welcome and care for new residents.”

Orchard has yet to lose any staff members and has been providing regular, independent, medical information in regard to the virus and safety of the vaccination in order to encourage employees to take the jab.

This includes hosting webinars with an associate professor and viral oncologist from a leading University.

Dobson added: “Should we have any staff losses this would be incredibly sad, as we would lose highly experienced and skilled people as a result of the Government’s new policy.”

Following April’s mandatory vaccination policy consultation, the policy was extended to all care homes, including those for younger adults.

The Lisieux Trust, which has two care homes for people with learning disabilities and autism, has also adopted a policy of transparency about the number of staff who have been vaccinated.

It has done this by publishing the figures in several editions of its monthly newsletter, so residents, families and staff teams were aware of the numbers.

Furthermore, it has not been asked to provide evidence of vaccinations by councils before a new placement so far.

Chief executive Jess Alsop-Greenacre said: “We are due to start consulting with staff members about the mandatory vaccines in the next few weeks; following this process we’ll know how many staff members may face dismissal if they refuse to have the vaccination.

“Currently 11 out of 85 staff in the entire organisation have refused to have the vaccination and only two of these work in our care homes; the remaining nine work in our supported living services.”

Alsop-Greenacre added that, if staff members leave or are dismissed as a result of the rule, they will need to use more agency staff while they recruit to fill the vacancies.

Lisieux Trust has already set up agreements with some agencies in anticipation that they will have to use their staff in coming months.

At Anchor Hanover the “vast majority” of staff have already received the vaccine voluntarily.

A spokesperson added: “We have contributed to the government consultation on mandatory vaccinations and would welcome a consistent approach across the care and NHS workforce.

“It is also crucial for government to help social care to enhance professionalism through investment and reform to drive parity of esteem.”

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