Bedford care homes prepare for covid announcements ‘with bated breath’

A 'significant proportion' of employees could either leave their jobs or be sacked if vaccines are made compulsory later this year, a meeting heard

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 1:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 1:10 pm

Adult social care leaders in Bedford are waiting with 'bated breath' for announcements that will determine the future for care homes.

The Government is next week due to set out its guidance for the social care sector after so-called freedom day on July 19.

Ministers are also due, sometime this year, to make up their minds on the thorny subject of compulsory vaccinations following a public consultation exercise.

The Government is next week due to set out its guidance for the social care sector after July 19

A meeting heard that the care market in the borough is “stable but fragile” at the moment.

But the adult services overview and scrutiny committee was also told there is a prospect of a significant proportion of employees either leaving their jobs or being sacked if vaccines are made compulsory later this year.

“We are waiting with bated breath for what the new announcements next week may have in store for adult social care services,” said Kate Walker, the borough’s director of adult social services.

“We believe that there will still be some restrictions and some safety measures that will remain and we await further guidance.”

Tuesday’s (July 6) meeting heard that the care market is operating at around 75 per cent to 85 per cent capacity for some of its service areas.

“The market is stable but it is fragile because of the ongoing implications of covid,” said Ms Walker.

Leaders are also concerned that a perfect storm of European workers going home after Brexit and vaccine hesitancy leading to operators struggling.

The meeting heard that about 13 per cent of care home staff remain unvaccinated, but this masks huge differences.

In some care homes, including for the elderly and those with learning disabilities, all staff are vaccinated. But in some, the vaccination level is at only 35 per cent.

While the Government makes up its mind on the subject of compulsory vaccinations, the meeting heard that they are “continuing to work with the vaccine hesitant” to deal with their concerns.

Ms Walker gave the committee some “good news” in her covid update, saying that infection rates in care homes have been very low “and that’s we believe due to the vaccination success.”

Cases since May have not been translating into high rates of people going to hospital and deaths.

The council on Tuesday also heard that the financial ‘lifeline’ of infection control grants to care homes have been extended until September. They will also receive free PPE until next March, the meeting was told.

Ms Walker also said that leaders are aware that employees have been working under “extreme pressure” and are tired.

So they also want to keep a focus on the well-being of staff, which could go some way to keeping them in the care sector.

Chairing the committee, Cllr Roger Rigby (Cons, Bromham & Biddenham), said: “We are in a third wave, we’ve just got to hope that the third wave is not going to be a substantial wave and even if you’ve got a lot of infections that the vaccines will save lives.”