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DHSC reverses proposed ban on social care staff movement



The Government has climbed down on its plan to introduce a ban on staff moving between care homes in England to try to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The proposal, published in November 2020 and put to public consultation that month, was strongly opposed by trade unions such as the RCN and care organisations who raised concerns staff would feel blamed for the spread of Covid-19 in care homes.

It would have seen care homes temporarily prevented from using staff if they have been working in another health and social care setting in the last 14 days, unless not enough staff were available.

The 1,312 responses to the Government’s consultation – with over half from social care or healthcare providers – showed a strong desire to increase staffing capacity instead of a ban to achieve reduced staff movement. Most (86%) also said the requirements would be difficult to implement.

Acting RCN England director Patricia Marquis said that scrapping the plans was the ‘right decision’, adding the ‘move would have had a significant negative effect on social care staff who may have felt they were being scapegoated for spreading Covid-19′.

She continued: ‘There is a workforce crisis in social care and a ban would have compounded an already-difficult situation. A ban would have undermined safe, person-centred care and punished unfairly diligent care home workers.’

Although the plans will not go ahead, the Government has underlined the importance of continuing to restrict staff movement between care settings. This is in line with updated guidance from March this year outlining that routine staff movement should not take place.

The Government added that it announced £120m of funding to help local authorities boost staff levels in January, which includes supporting providers to pay overtime and childcare costs.

Earlier this month, healthcare leaders expressed disappointment the Queen’s Speech contained little detail on long-awaited social care reforms, although the Government has said they will be brought forward this year.

Social care minister Helen Whately told the health and social care committee this week that reforms to the sector will need to tackle workforce vacancies.

A five-week consultation into making the Covid vaccination compulsory for care home staff closed to responses on Wednesday this week.