Care providers are working to ensure that staff are vaccinated and they have sufficient cover when new Covid regulations come into force in November, a meeting heard.
Kate Walker, director of adult services at Bedford Borough Council, gave an update on the condition of employment Covid vaccine regulations to the Adult Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee this week (October 12).
New rules come into force on November 11, requiring care home staff to refuse entry to anybody who cannot show that they have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, or that they come within a specified exemption.
This applies to all Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated care homes providing nursing or personal care in England.
“We continue to monitor and work with our care home providers on any impacts, risks and mitigation taking place in the local residential and nursing care market,” she said.
She added: “The Care Standards Team is currently undertaking a local snapshot to ascertain what the current position is and to provide a clearer picture of what's likely to happen as we hit the deadline.”
Ms Walker said that the sample of care homes the team has already contacted has shown a marginal improvement in the vaccine uptake.
“Staff who do not wish to undertake the vaccine, or will not be double vaccinated by November will already be meeting with their registered managers and providers in order for HR and personnel procedures to be taken.”
Ms Walker explained that there are ongoing shortages in care staff, with high demand and competition from other sectors, such as the retail and hospitality industries.
She also said that new regulations came into force this month for those who declared that they are unable to have the vaccine for clinical reasons. This new guidance published by the Department for Health and Social Care means that these workers will have to apply for ‘official proof’ that for medical reasons they are unable to get vaccinated and/or tested for Covid.
Councillor Abu Sultan (Labour, Cauldwell Ward) wanted clarification on the employment of those who do not take up the vaccination.
“Come November, those care workers who’ve had their meetings with their HR team and they still refuse or do not take up the vaccination, will their contract be terminated?” he asked.
Ms Walker responded, “That may be the outcome for people if their organisations do not have other alternative employment opportunities through redeployment, other opportunities.”
Updating the meeting on how care providers are handling the issue, she said “At this point, we do know that some of the care homes who had a lower staff vaccine takeup have already successfully recruited to cover their staff shortages.
“Anecdotally, we have heard that a number of the larger providers are struggling to recruit and they are beginning to look into supported recruitment through the Health and Care Workplace Visa process.
“No providers have told us they feel that they’re at imminent risk at the moment,” she added.
“But they are working very closely on their business continuity plans to maintain safety and quality of services.”