Care home sector set for 'really difficult winter' as Covid jab rules kick in

Stock image of a care worker wearing PPE, David Finch and Prema Fairburn-Dorai

Care leaders have voiced concerns over staffing issues - Credit: Cephas Care

Hundreds of care home workers in Suffolk have left their jobs over Covid vaccination rules - prompting fears the sector is set for "a big fall" due to the staffing crisis. 

From yesterday, all care home workers in England are now required to have been double jabbed, unless they are medically exempt.

Care home providers can choose to redeploy staff into non-frontline roles - if these are available - or place them on paid or unpaid leave until they have been double jabbed. 

It is estimated close to 200 care home staff across the county have left the sector due to the rules, with a sector leader describing it as "devastating". 

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chairman of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chairman of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, who chairs the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers (SAICP), said she approves of the mandatory vaccine rules but voiced concerns over the strain it is putting on workforces. 

"I approve [of the vaccine rules] in the sense that it is there for safety and it is keeping the most vulnerable people safe, including the staff. 

"Of course we want to keep our clients and residents safe by being double-jabbed but for quite a few staff, it's the principle.

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"They feel like they've got to right to choose, which they do, but being dictated to is not something which is going down very well. 

"It's devastating to lose so many from the sector. It's such a nightmare at the moment, the care sector doesn't really know what to do anymore. How do you conjure up people?"

Ms Fairburn-Dorai said she believes more government funding to increase wages would help ease the staffing crisis

She said: "Until they address that, no-one is going to want to work in the care sector. They've got Aldi and Tesco paying more, why would they come to us?

"We are heading for a big fall. I'm terrified myself actually, a lot of providers are, they are wondering whether it's worth carrying on."

David Finch, managing director of Alpha Nurseries said the safer you made the setting the harder it

David Finch, managing director of Cephas Care, said he believes the sector is set for a 'difficult winter' - Credit: Cephas Care

David Finch, managing director of Cephas Care, said he has lost two members of staff in Norfolk over the rules but added his teams have been "mostly positive" towards vaccination. 

"If you lose anybody out of the care sector, it's going to put extra pressure on because there's already a huge amount of vacancies," he said. 

"It wasn't just a small number across the UK either, it was something like 32,000 who lost their jobs.

"The problem we have is that one in five patients are now ready for discharge from hospital, but care homes don't have the capacity to take them, home care don't have the capacity to take them so something's got to happen hasn't it? 

"I'd like to say things are going to get better but from my experience in the care sector unless there's a massive shift from the NHS to social care, I can see it being a really difficult winter."

Mr Finch added he wants the government to "listen to people on the ground". 

"I know what the government's trying to do, I can understand where they're trying to get to but if it was me, I would have said: 'We'll won't bring the jab in until the same time as the NHS staff, which is next April, and bring it all in together'. That's what I would have done," he said. 

"But due to the mistakes made at the beginning of the pandemic, I think the government are now trying to make up for that, that's my personal view. 

"What they need to do is to stop and just listen to the people on the ground."