2,500 care home staff in region yet to receive vaccine

More than 2,500 care home staff across the Black Country and Staffordshire have not yet had a Covid vaccine - with the jabs to be made compulsory for workers in England.

Staff will be given 16 weeks to get fully vaccinated from the time new legislation is approved by Parliament, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

He said the move, set to take effect from October, was aimed at protecting the most vulnerable from the virus and would cover all workers employed by a care home provider.

But concerns have been raised by leaders in the care sector that such a “oppressive” approach would lead to staff shortages.

NHS figures show that across the region, 2,549 out of 18,277 eligible staff, including agency workers, at older adult care homes had not received a first dose by June 13, which is 13 per cent of all those eligible for the vaccine.

Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member for health and adult social care at Dudley Council, said: “We have been working with and supporting the care homes in the borough in promoting vaccination uptake and overcoming any concerns of staff. We are pleased with the response of staff and are hoping that all staff are vaccinated in the near future.

“The council is extremely grateful to all staff working in social care throughout the pandemic and for continued efforts to provide care and support.”

Councillor Rose Martin, portfolio holder for adult social care at Walsall Council said: “Walsall Council has been working proactively to address the challenges faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes encouraging residents and our own staff, as well as care providers, to get vaccinated as a matter of priority.

"Care workers have been supported and encouraged to get their Covid vaccine with the provision of information and myth-busting. We appreciate the valuable contribution that adult social care providers make to the health and wellbeing of the people of Walsall and acknowledge the challenges faced by them, a position that is not unique to Walsall, during these unusual times.

"We are thankful to our care providers who deliver a critical service and have overcome the challenges faced to ensure that care and support is provided to those who need these vital services. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage any adult that hasn’t had the vaccination to do so as soon as possible to protect yourself and those around you as well as making sure they have the second dose when then can to get maximum protection.”

“If you live, study or work in Walsall and you're 18-years-old or above, you can drop into the Saddlers Vaccination Centre to get your vaccination between 8am and 6pm, no appointment needed. Alternatively you can book online through the NHS website or by calling 119.”

Encourage

A spokesman for Wolverhampton Council said: "The latest figures show that almost 83 per cent of care home staff in Wolverhampton have had their Covid-19 vaccination so far and we continue to encourage those that haven’t to do so as soon as possible to protect themselves and the people they care for."

A Sandwell Council spokesman said: “ Around 84 per cent of staff in Sandwell older people’s care homes have been vaccinated and we have supported local care homes and other care providers throughout the pandemic. We have encouraged and promoted take up of the vaccine for both care home residents and the staff who care for them.

“We are continuing to work with local care providers to support and encourage those staff hesitant to receive the vaccine and actively encourage all those eligible to receive the vaccine to arrange an appointment to do so as soon as possible to protect our communities.”

Vaccine hesitancy among care staff in some areas of England has prompted the decision by the Government, according to social care experts within the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Across the country, the uptake for first doses varies by region with London having the highest proportion of unvaccinated staff – 23 per cent.

By contrast, 14 per cent of care home staff in the South West and the North East and Yorkshire have not had the first jab.

In the Midlands, that figure is 16 per cent.

Nationally, the proportion unvaccinated is 16 per cent.

Back in April a five-week consultation on the proposal was launched by the Department of Health and Social Care.

It has seen the idea extended to cover not only care homes for older people, but all Care Quality Commission-registered care homes providing nursing and personal care.

Making the announcement on Wednesday, Mr Hancock said “Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk.”

The prospect of compulsory jabs has gained general support among the public, according to polls.

Persuading

But the approach has disappointed some leaders in the care sector.

Nadra Ahmed, chief executive of the National Care Association, which represent care providers,today warned the Government now risked a staffing shortage in the West Midlands.

She said: “I don’t know why the Government can’t carry on persuading people to have the vaccine rather than creating a legislative pathway which is so oppressive.

“The social care sector already has 112,000 vacancies and we now at risk of being left with more as some overworked, stressed and already anxious care workers have had enough.”

The union Unison, which represents thousands of care workers in the West Midlands, says the Government’s approach is heavy handed and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The Government’s sledgehammer approach now runs the risk that some care staff may simply walk away from an already understaffed, undervalued and underpaid sector.”

Many workers in the care sector in the West Midlands and Staffordshire are from ethnic groups.

Research published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found black African and mixed black African staff were twice as likely to decline a vaccination as white British and white Irish workers.

Reasons included concerns about a lack of research and distrust in the vaccine, healthcare providers, and policy makers.

Vaccine hesitancy among care staff in some areas of England has prompted the decision by the Government, according to social care experts within the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News