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Government has ‘mountain to climb’ to vaccinate social care staff by deadline

Government has ‘mountain to climb’ to vaccinate social care staff by deadline

There is a ‘mountain to climb’ to vaccinate all social care staff against Covid-19 by the deadline on Monday, with many yet to receive the jab, a social care leader has warned.

A third of community services, domiciliary care, supported living and working age adult care homes had less than 40% of their staff vaccinated, according to a National Care Forum (NCF) snapshot survey of 1,500 English care services, on 8 and 9 February.

NCF executive director Vic Rayner, presenting the survey at a briefing today, said a lack of access to coronavirus jabs was a ‘huge reason’ why there is ‘still a long way to go’ to vaccinate all social care staff by the Government’s 15 February deadline.

Although Ms Rayner acknowledged that opening up the National Booking Service – as announced yesterday – to social care workers would ‘unlock’ access, she stressed that ‘until now’ vaccination has only been through ‘busy’ hospital hubs and primary care networks. The booking service is provided by NHS Digital to enable members of the public in England to book coronavirus vaccinations.

The survey found higher vaccination uptake in older people care homes, with half (53%) reporting over 70% of their staff vaccinated and only 5% with less than 40% of their staff vaccinated.

The NCF suggested that vaccine hesitancy and medical reasons were among the main drivers behind staff in these care homes not taking up the vaccine, as opposed to access to jabs.

Mark Cunningham, chief executive of Heathlands Village older people care home in Greater Manchester, said at the briefing today that about 84% of its 350 staff have had the vaccine but estimated around 10% had declined it.

He continued: ‘I think you can see from the figures that there’s a lot of work to be done across social care in terms of encouraging care staff to take up the opportunity of the vaccine.

‘For us, it’s very much been about hearts and minds – providing people with the information and encouragement and the support to make informed decisions about the vaccine.’

Brian James, operations manager at care charity Keychange, said issues remained with persuading some staff that taking the vaccine was not ‘an addition to the risk they’re already living with from Covid’.  But he added hesitancy had improved as the vaccination programme got under way.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said they were ‘on track to meet our target of offering all of those in priority groups 1-4, which includes frontline social care workers, their first vaccine dose by mid-February.

‘Health and social care staff are playing crucial roles on the frontline of this pandemic and their employers are in the process of contacting them to make sure they get their vaccine as soon as possible.’

Earlier this week, an RCN survey found that almost half of agency nurses and a quarter of temporary nurses have yet to be given a Covid-19 vaccine.

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