From 11th November 2021, all staff working in a care home must be double jabbed or exempt – if not, they cannot cross the threshold into a care home from 11th November.
Everyone running care services is committed to achieving as high a level of COVID vaccination as possible. However, our members have consistently stated that they do not believe mandation is the best way to achieve this; rather, finding the best results from persuasion and encouragement, with good information and support, taking the time to address concerns with respect and discussion. And, indeed, when the government consulted on this policy earlier in 2021, the majority of the general public and people using care services did not support mandation of vaccination for care home staff.
In a recent survey to members operating care homes, our findings shows that care providers fear they will lose around 8% of their care home staff as a direct result of this policy. This is a very serious loss of staff and one which, given the enormous workforce pressures now, the care sector can ill afford.
What does this tell us about the true cost of mandating vaccination?
For the people living in care homes and their families, it means that long serving experienced staff with whom they have a trusted relationship will no longer be there to care for them and support them;
For the staff who have lost their jobs it means that they can longer do the job they loved as a direct result of the government’s policy of vaccine mandation – a policy that is not yet being applied to any other workforce in the country;
For care providers it means they are facing even more pressures to have enough staff to provide high quality, consistent care at a time when recruitment and retention are increasingly difficult, and
For the wider health system and the NHS, it means that more requests for help to discharge people from hospital into care homes cannot be met.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum said:
“Our survey shows that the true cost of implementing this policy has been very high. It has absorbed a huge amount of time and energy of staff, which could have been better devoted to recruitment and the well-being of existing staff; it has instead had to focus on working through dismissal procedures. 91% of respondents said that they had required additional HR time and 93% said they had to run additional one-to-one sessions for staff to talk them through the policy and its implications, with 74% providing whole team briefings for their workforce.”
On top of internal pressures and costs, the external financial costs were also in stark view with 53% of respondents incurring additional costs for specialist legal advice on how to implement this policy. It’s reflected further in the loss of goodwill between employee/employer relationship with 58% of respondents running disciplinary hearings and 40% managing appeals.
The national roll out of the policy has been chaotic. Respondents have been critical, stating that their experience on the ground is one of a policy ‘badly thought through’ and that the timing of the policy is ‘out of touch’ with the enormous pressures experienced by the care workforce.
‘It’s been a shambles. Much rests on the medical exemption process and this was a. late, b. unclear, c. poorly written and, d. lacking in ‘way points’ to allow us to manage staff through this process…’
Participants expressed strong views that the government has done little to mitigate impact of the policy, taking no direct action to support the sector in managing the fallout from both the number of staff who would be dismissed as a direct result of the policy and the overall impact on staff morale:
‘The no jab no job initiative was sent out too quickly without due consideration to the impact it would have on an already struggling sector. The divide between the NHS and social care has been made bigger. No jab no job is placing more stress on staff to work extra hours to cover staff vacancies.’
“Since the introduction of this policy we have been vocal about the unnecessary high cost – in terms of human costs, financial costs and the loss in trust and goodwill amongst care staff and their employers as a direct result of this policy. Care homes have been the unwitting guinea pigs through the implementation of this policy, and the impact on people must not be swept under the carpet. It is vital that the government learns from this experience and makes changes for the wider roll out of this policy. As we face a very difficult winter ahead, lessons must be learnt in how not to introduce a policy that has long term consequences on the very people we need to deliver the care and support many people and communities rely on.