The CEO of United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) has expressed concern over an government consultation that is expected to lay out plans for making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for the entire social care sector.
Legislation requiring care home staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is set to come into force by November, and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed yesterday that further consultation is being held on whether to extend vaccination as a condition of deployment to healthcare settings, as well as across other social care settings.
This will also consider extending the condition to flu vaccination.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme yesterday morning, UKHCA chief executive Dr Jane Townson said she had seen a draft of the consultation and that is likely the government will “press ahead” with plans to make vaccination mandatory for the entire social care workforce “as soon as it can make it happen”.
She told the programme that while UKHCA is strongly in favour of vaccination for social care staff, it is concerned that the impact on recruitment and retention will be “catastrophic”.
“Our concern is that vaccination as a condition of deployment will likely result in a substantial loss of the workforce and, right now, we are experiencing challenges that are greater than anyone can ever remember.”
Dr Townson revealed that 81.5% of home care workers have now had their first vaccine and 68.5% have had their second dose. But in some areas of the country, the take up is much lower.
“In some London boroughs, for example, vaccine hesitancy is much higher, so we’ve got only 68 to 70 percent of care workers vaccinated, so that means if compulsory vaccination is brought in then maybe 30 to 40 percent of the care workforce will leave.
“We are going to see some pretty catastrophic results from 30 to 40 percent of care workers not being there. We have always wanted the care workforce to be vaccinated, but making it compulsory in this way is going to leave many people leaving the care sector, which will leave people without care.”
Dr Townson explained that UKHCA is strongly in favour of persuading frontline staff to take up the COVID-19 vaccine, rather than making it compulsory.
“In London, the integrated care system has worked really hard to support vaccine-hesitant staff in care homes, and by having those conversations one to one, listening to those concerns and explaining [their knowledge of the vaccine] from a clinical perspective has really shifted the needle, and nine times out of 10 people will go ahead and have the vaccine,” she said.
The Care Provider Alliance wrote a letter, signed by UKHCA, to Helen Whately last week, demanding clarification on care worker vaccination legislation. It is yet to receive a response.
Care providers have previously described the government’s move to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for care staff as a “kick in the teeth” for the sector, particularly when the same rules don’t apply to NHS staff.
BBC Radio 4 has shared a response from the DHSC with Home Care Insight, which read: “NHS staff have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and we are encouraging all frontline staff to come forward for the jab.
“The government continues to work closely with the NHS to provide guidance and advice for NHS staff to encourage take up of the vaccine.
“Further consultation will be held on whether to extend vaccination as a condition of deployment to healthcare settings, as well as across other social care settings. This will also consider extending the condition to flu vaccination as well as COVID-19.”