Covid vaccine deadline for 'demotivated' home care workers causes concern in Nottingham

By Joseph Locker

Concern has been raised for Nottingham's already 'tired and stressed' home care workers as the vaccine mandate deadline looms.

According to Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, home care workers (those who visit private residences) and NHS front-line staff will have to have been vaccinated against Covid by March 31.

It follows a similar mandate for care home workers (those working at Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered homes) which came into force at the end of last year.

As a result serious concerns have been raised for staff across all three sectors with thousands of NHS and care staff yet to be vaccinated.

At Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, for example, more than 1,000 staff are yet to be jabbed.

The issue for home care workers in Nottingham was raised during a Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee meeting on January 13.

Julie Sanderson, head of safeguarding and quality assurance who has worked in social care for 24 years, and Sara Storey, the director for health and adult social care, took questions from councillors.

Sam Gardiner, Labour councillor for Bulwell Forest, asked if any "risks" had been identified.

Ms Sanderson said: "One of the key risks to our workforce and extended workforce across the home care sector is around terms and conditions in the employment sector and, internally and externally, the impact of mandatory vaccinations for example, may mean that we lose some staff."

And councillor Angela Kandola, who represents the Berridge ward, added: "Over the decade, and this is in relation to front-line staff, they have been under a lot of pressure with increase in case work, they cannot deliver the quality of support they want to deliver because they are under stress and pressure, which leads to high sickness levels, they are demotivated.

"How is this strategy going to be different to address those issues?"

NHS Trusts in England, and local authorities, will be forced to send out letters of dismissal to health and care workers who are not vaccinated by the mandate deadline.

It is understood there is a shortage of around 100,000 care workers across the country, an issue which was discussed during the meeting at Loxley House on Thursday.

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According to Ms Sanderson and Ms Storey a consultation has taken place with workers in the adult social care sector in Nottingham.

They said 400 to 500 staff have been spoken to, as well as hundreds of staff on duty in care homes, taking the total to around 1,000.

"The workforce is primarily concerned about delivering good outcomes for people in the city, they think that is much more important that pay grade," Ms Sanderson added, discussing the findings.

"Primarily this is because of demand and capacity. The demand for adult social care has been increasing year on year and our workforce has not kept up with having the capacity to always respond to people as quickly as we might have wanted to."

"I would really like to be able to say that they pressures and demands will start to go down in adult social care but I am realistic and they will not.

"At the moment in relation to the current Covid wave and the impact of the last two years, on top of the impact of a really stressful job, all of our colleagues are very tired. There is still more than we can do and are doing.

"I do worry about the future, nationally, of the social care workforce, particularly in terms of acute shortages in home care at the moment. That is really difficult for us. We are exploring what we can do encourage people."

They said there would be a focus on taking away some of the "administration and bureaucracy" for care workers in the city.

A partner provider has also been commissioned to help with capacity, which was appointed in December, and should begin to decrease the time it takes to give someone an assessment.

Ms Sanderson says there will also be a focus on making people feel heard through conversations with management.

"It is really important, it is crucial, that they are sufficient that we can attract and retain suitably experienced, qualified staff, that they are supported through their career progression and development," she said.

As part of an ongoing transformation plan the "absolute priority", they say, is increasing staff morale.

Ms Storey added: "We've got a fantastic workforce and we've done a good job of retaining them, we are aware of the social care crisis across the country."


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