Care homes in Central Bedfordshire could lose more than 200 staff in a few weeks’ time after workers missed a deadline to get their first Covid jab before mandatory vaccination kicks in.
NHS England data suggests 212 care home workers in Central Bedfordshire had not had their first vaccine as of September 19 .
After November 11, staff will be excluded from working in care homes if they are not fully vaccinated. To meet this deadline, the last chance for workers to get their first dose was September 16, given the time needed between a first and second jab.
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In Central Bedfordshire, 83.8 per cent of staff have been double vaccinated as of September 19 - with a further 123 still needing to get their second jab before November 11 if they are to remain working.
The adult social care sector, including but not limited to care homes, has a vacancy rate of 8.9 per cent in Central Bedfordshire – according to the latest estimates from charity Skills for Care, covering 2019-20.
Government guidance states that providers should “explore all options” to redeploy unvaccinated staff elsewhere, but that dismissal will remain an option if this is not possible.
Staff who can prove they cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will be exempt.
The vaccination figures quoted include both permanent and agency staff employed by independent and local authority-run care homes for people aged 65 and over, and independent care homes for adults aged under 65.
Any staff employed directly by councils in younger adult care homes are missing from the figures – but the vast majority of care staff in England work for independent providers.
Care England, which represents providers, warned earlier this month that the sector was “at breaking point” over recruitment and retention – even before the loss of unvaccinated workers.
Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “The writing is on the wall and without immediate help, as given to the NHS, the social care sector will crumple and not be there to support the NHS over the winter let alone in years to come”.
Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB union, which represents some care staff, said bosses were now having to think about how to keep residents safe.
"Forced vaccination of our embattled care workers is an insensitive and cruel way to address vaccine hesitancy,” she said.
"If employers and ministers are to tackle the vacancy crisis then they must drop this policy, fix poverty sick pay rates, and raise pay – GMB is demanding no less than the £15 an hour that care workers deserve.”
The double-vaccine rule also applies to visitors to care homes, with unvaccinated people set to be banned from entering from 11 November.
A version of this story originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld