The Government should direct resources to areas of the UK with low Covid vaccine uptake rather than make vaccinations compulsory for care home staff Unison has said.
It follows an announcement from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) yesterday (14 April) that it was launching a consultation on whether mandatory vaccinations should be introduced for care home workers.
Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘Boosting the number of vaccinations in the social care sector is essential for everyone’s safety. But mandatory jabs are the wrong approach and a massive distraction.’
She added that the Government should be focusing its efforts on targeting adverts to care staff, addressing misinformation, and ‘lining up already-jabbed colleagues to offer reassurance’.
A heavy-handed approach could also lead to some staff resigning, Ms McAnea said, leaving behind a ‘poorly paid sector’ and damaging the quality of care for elderly and vulnerable people.
‘Resources should be ploughed into areas of the UK with low take-up rates to persuade rather than coerce nervous care workers. Care employers should give staff time off work to make it as easy as possible for all concerned,’ she added.
‘A difficult question’
In yesterday’s announcement, DHSC said experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommend that 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid outbreaks – but only 53% of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold.
The proposals, which will be consulted on over the next five weeks, will not include those who can provide evidence of medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination, and will not impact staff working with younger disabled or vulnerable adults. Health secretary Matt Hancock said making vaccines ‘a condition of deployment’ was something that ‘many care homes have called for’ to help provide greater protection to staff and residents.
The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) welcomed the announcement but said whatever is decided must not impact staff numbers.
James Bullion, ADASS President, said: ‘It is important to acknowledge that significant progress has been made towards keeping people safe in adult social care with an increasing number of people living in and working in care homes being vaccinated, but there is more to be done.’
He added: ‘We welcome the announcement of the consultation on what is a difficult question for the Government and all involved, but it is important that whatever is decided does not adversely impact the staffing numbers needed for safe and high-quality care.’
He also said that this should be considered alongside the ‘urgent need’ to improve care workers’ employment deal.