More than 500 care workers not jabbed by first deadline, figures show
- Credit: PA
Care home bosses have said the already '"stretched sector" faces additional strain over the loss of unvaccinated staff, despite a high uptake in first vaccines.
Fears have been raised over the "timebomb" facing Norfolk's care homes when staff who have not had the vaccinations are no longer able to work, with hundreds in the region yet to take their first jab.
Although the vast majority of staff have taken the vaccine, the industry faces losing those that have not.
In July, MPs passed laws requiring care home staff to have coronavirus vaccinations, with the deadline for workers to have their first jab on September 16 and both by November 11.
Figures show around 5pc of Norfolk care home staff were unvaccinated by the first jab deadline up to September 19.
In the following week, that percentage remained largely the same with 12 extra staff in the county taking their first jab, taking the number from 586 up to September 19 to 574 staff yet to receive their first jab up to September 26.
And up to September 26, 1,200 staff were not yet fully vaccinated.
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In Suffolk, the uptake in vaccines for staff was slightly higher from 450 staff yet to receive their first dose up to September 19 reduced to 396 up to September 26.
James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council, said the sector is facing a "cliff edge" in the run-up to Christmas and appealed for more people to consider a career in social care.
Tom Lyons, managing director of Black Swan Care Group, which has care homes in Norfolk, said of their 700 staff around 12 are refusing the vaccination.
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He said: "We've had a relatively good uptake of vaccinations, however our concern is the wider carer population is also impacted and we're already in a sector where we struggle to recruit staff and that is going to be impacted as a result of this.
"One of the key issues is, that whilst there is a consultation in process for the NHS, I think the biggest issue for us is that social care has not been looked at on parity with the NHS."
Of the 12 that have not been vaccinated, the managing director said:"We will be looking at them and will likely be terminated but that is something that will be determined through our disciplinary process.
"The regulations only come into force on November 11 so until that date, we don't have a reason to dismiss someone and as we know government plans do change and we have to be able to respond to any changes that may or may not come into place.
"But we will follow a due process and ensure we follow the letter of the law."
Mr Lyons said that the impact of staff leaving places an "additional strain on an already stretched sector".
He added: "We have tired staff and we need to recruit more people into the sector, and that's just going to put additional strain on it."
Steven Dorrington, who runs Dorrington Care Homes in Watton, Dereham and Wells with his wife Lorraine, said when the regulation came into force they had 38 staff who would not get the jab but that they spent a lot of time "reassuring them".
He added: "We got that down from 38 to six."
He said that some staff thought they were able to get an exemption but around three left a few months ago for reasons that were not to due to the jab.
Of the six currently not vaccinated, Mr Dorrington said: "One might get a compassionate reason but the other five are going to leave. They'll leave the industry and not go into the health service, they're going to leave care altogether."
"We're recruiting like mad and our weapon is smart staffing, we're not just working to the rota anymore, we're working around families."
Asked what the impact of unvaccinated staff having to leave would be, he said: "It's not going to be as bad as some places.
"It's annoying but not the end of the world because we've managed it and we've had to manage it.
"But some homes are in quite dire strain and they're saying they can't take any more people because they haven't got enough staff to look after them."
Kingsley Healthcare said the issue is not causing them any concerns.
Stephen Pullinger, head of public relations, said: “The vaccine take-up among our care home staff has been hugely positive.
"Staff have been very understanding and professional regarding this matter."