Vaccinations in care homes delayed by Covid outbreaks

Elderly patients will be cared for at home.

Elderly patients will be cared for at home. - Credit: Archant © 2006

More than half of Norfolk care home residents still haven’t had a Covid jab as virus outbreaks keep vaccination teams away.

Despite assurances that all care home residents and staff will be offered a vaccine by January 24, until this week that hasn't included homes that have had an outbreak - two or more positive tests - within the last 28 days.

Almost half of Norfolk’s 350 care homes have had outbreaks since December, and council chiefs admitted on Thursday that 55pc of residents are still waiting for their first dose, as well as 70pc of staff.

Levels of staff sickness are also increasing, with up to 1 in 5 unable to work.

New guidance now says teams can enter homes where there is an outbreak, but only once risk assessments are carried out.

As previously reported, weekly death tolls in care homes have climbed to record levels – with 51 deaths in the week leading up to January 15.

Yesterday, Steve Dorrington, who runs four Norfolk care homes, said residents who had tested positive faced a 28-day wait before their first jab, and vaccination teams were unwilling to vaccinate small groups, meaning long waits for Covid-free residents too.

He added staff were struggling to travel to regional vaccination centres.

Latest figures show almost 70,000 people in Norfolk and Waveney have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

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Norfolk County Council's director of adult social care James Bullion said some staff sickness rates were up to 20pc, with the council actively recruiting care workers.

James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County C

James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant

“The progress we are making on vaccination will make a big difference,” he said.

“But we also have the issue of staff sickness. It’s one of our chief worries that we may reach the point where we solve the NHS problem but then see a bow-wave effect impacting on our social care services.”

Mr Bullion said no Covid-positive patients are being discharged into Norfolk care homes, as happened last year.

Instead, virus patients are being sent to "designated settings" in the county, including the soon to reopen 45-bed Cawston Lodge care home in Norwich.

Care homes in Hunstanton and Buxton have also been opened for recovering virus patients.

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