Leaders in social care have described the government’s move to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for care staff as a “kick in the teeth” for the sector.
Coronavirus vaccinations will be made compulsory for care home staff from October, and Matt Hancock has recently said that the government will “consult” on extending the rule to domiciliary care workers.
Speaking at the Future of Care conference yesterday, provider bosses said the move is “regrettable” and expressed concerns that staff would leave the sector and take up a job in the NHS if they are forced to get the vaccine.
Avnish Goyal, chair of Hallmark Care Homes, said: “The challenge is that we don’t have a level playing field yet again and it does feel like a kick in the teeth that the government has singled out social care and not the NHS. So what we’ll see is team members going to the NHS and get a job there because it won’t be mandatory.”
Nicki Bones, CEO of SweetTree Home Care Services, said providers should find alternative roles for staff members who don’t wish to have the vaccine, adding that workers have the right to make their own decisions.
“I come from the home care sector rather than the care home sector and I expect that mandatory vaccination will come in beyond October for home care too. I can’t say that I don’t have a fundamental belief in the vaccination, but I can say that I also believe in people’s own choices and wishes, and I think that one of the things that we want to do is find the right role for somebody if they choose not to have the vaccine, and they do have the right to that choice,” she said.
“I don’t want to take the rights and choices away from staff who have been through a very difficult time. I think we need to be a lot more creative than that and say that there are alternatives that you can do if face-to-face care with clients becomes a mandatory vaccine situation. I’ve had one member of staff who said she will kindly leave the sector if she was forced to have the vaccine. She has a right to that choice and she’s worked damn hard throughout the pandemic.”
Amanda Scott, CEO of Forest Healthcare, said education and persuasion should be used to increase the number of care staff being vaccinated, rather than force.
“Our position was to take a route of educate, enable and engage with people and that has given us very successful outcomes so far in allowing people to understand the vaccine, understand the benefits and ask the questions.
“I agree completely with Avnish that it has been a kick in the teeth to social care. I can’t understand the principles behind that. We’ve got some very real challenges in front of us and at the same time we’re saying to people ‘we don’t trust you to make the choice, you must have the vaccine”. In my view, this is really regrettable.
“Nevertheless, there is a recognition that, as a nation, we need to be vaccinated – it’s our only route out of this, so we will continue to support our team members until the 11th hour.”
Dr Ben Maruthappu, CEO and co-founder of Cera, agreed, adding: “This is making a challenging situation even more challenging and I think it’s quite heavy handed to force people to be vaccinated. We are a sector that focuses much more on empowerment and support and we absolutely need to care for our staff, so I think force feeding isn’t the right approach.”