Social care leaders have stressed that registered nurses in care homes can help in the fight against Covid-19 by vaccinating their own residents without supervision.
NHS England has told Nursing in Practice that while care home nurses with the necessary training could vaccinate residents, they should be supervised by primary care network (PCN) teams.
But care homes leaders have told us there is ‘no reason’ why their own registered nurses cannot deliver the vaccinations without supervision if they have training. They say this will help with the tight deadline of 24 January to vaccinate all care home residents with the first dose of the Covid-19 jab.
They also say it would be better as they know their residents and will be able to allay any fears, and it would mean external teams would not have to come into the homes, which could increase the spread of coronavirus.
Covid-19 vaccination training for registered nurses can be accessed online, but many care home nurses are not completing it at the moment because PCN teams are taking charge of vaccinating their residents.
Louise Brady, clinical development lead at the Royal British Legion’s six care homes and registered nurse, argued care home nurses vaccinating residents should be made ‘best practice’ – especially since the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine came in, which care homes can more easily store.
She said: ‘There is absolutely no reason why care home nurses cannot undertake and support primary care in the vaccination process. We want our nurses to be empowered and not to have to rely on external commissioners come in. And we know the residents best.’
Mike Padgham, who runs four homes in North Yorkshire and is chair of the Independent Care Group, has so far relied on external teams to administer vaccines to residents, but said it would be ‘extremely beneficial’ if care home nurses administered them.
He added: ‘We need more vaccinators and we have qualified nurses already in the homes who can help. This could relieve pressure on the government and on the system by getting residents vaccinated faster. Care home nurses already play a vital part and could play an even more vital part.’
Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman said: ‘Registered nurses working in care homes could be trained to vaccinate their own residents wherever it is safe to do so. They’re perfectly capable.’
‘This is an emergency situation and we should be using every resource we’ve got to maximise the vaccination of our most vulnerable,’ she added.
Nursing in Practice understands that chief nurse for social care Deborah Sturdy is aware of the issue.
The NHS England letter sent to primary care networks, CCGs and its own regional teams, setting out the 24 January deadline, offered the ‘use of military clinical teams’ but did not mention using care home staff.
NHS England has told Nursing in Practice while care home nurses could vaccinate staff, the approach was unlikely and they expected vaccinations to be carried out by appointed NHS services and practices.
This comes as Office for National Statistics data from 12 January found that Covid-19 accounted for over a quarter (27.6%) of all care home deaths in the week ending 1 January in England, up from 24% the week before.
Nuffield Trust deputy director of research Sarah Scobie said the figures ‘paint a worrying picture’ as ‘nobody wants to see a repeat of the first wave where the virus spread through care homes at pace’.
She added: ‘The vaccination of these most vulnerable people is now underway, but due to the time lag in gaining immunity and collecting this data, we will not see this impact for a few weeks yet.’