Why care homes are caught between a rock and a hard place
Care home workers in England, including volunteers, must be fully COVID vaccinated by 11 November, adding further tension to the sector
Tension in the English care home sector is mounting following the requirement that the workforce, including volunteers, must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by 11 November 2021, unless exempt.
Government statistics from 24 August show that 80.9% of staff of older adult care homes had received both doses of the vaccine. Even assuming that more staff may wish to be vaccinated, there is a real risk that those who do not will be tempted to leave the sector.
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The care sector that looks after our most frail and vulnerable people is already susceptible to pay and workforce pressures, so it is essential that short- and longer-term solutions to a staffing crisis are developed.
The case for long-term reform of social care
In our article How upskilling nurses can solve the care home crisis, Deirdre Wild and colleagues argue the case for long-term reform of social care. They propose investment in education and workforce development, pay review, and development of career structures that encourage people into the sector and offer opportunities for career progression.
This argument echoes that in the forthcoming white paper on reforming social care, which will include a plan to support the professional development and long-term well-being of the workforce, and promises to meet these aims with a £500 million investment over three years.
These issues are multidimensional and complex. The pandemic restrictions on visiting, while aimed at protecting residents from the potentially devastating effects of future waves of COVID-19, have triggered resident protests because of their social and psychological consequences over a prolonged period.
Staffing shortages add another serious challenge to resident welfare. This does not mean that those of us who care for older people should not be vaccinated for infectious diseases, but it does mean that short-term challenges must be addressed along with plans for sensible investment in the long term.
Nicky Hayes is consultant editor of Nursing Older People