Care staff 'furious' at potential U-turn on vaccine mandate for NHS staff

care sector

Suffolk care sector workers are frustrated at the news that the government may not require NHS staff to be vaccinated by April 1, when they faced the same ultimatum in November - Credit: PA/Sarah Lucy Brown

The government look set to U-turn mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff in England which has angered care home workers who did have to get the jab or lose their job last year.

Care sector staff in Suffolk have called out the Government for double standards after a minister hinted that the decision to dismiss NHS staff who refuse to get the vaccine by April 1 will be dropped.

Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said that a decision will be made soon and cited the lower severity of the Omicron variant as a main reason for the consideration.

On November 11 all staff at care homes faced the same deadline, they had to be vaccinated in order to keep their jobs unless they were exempt.

"I think it's disgusting the fact that we as health and social care have been forced into having them, along with a number of people losing their job," said Kesgrave nursing home manager Michala Hartley-Brown.

Oakwood House Nursing Home

Michala Hartley-Brown, registered home manager at Oakwood House Nursing Home - Credit: Oakwood House Nursing Home

"You can't reverse that decision, we've been forced to have it. We had no choice if we wanted to continue working.

"Since the start of Covid I've not had anybody in the home with it, yet we've had to have the injections."

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The Oakwood House manager believes as it was a medical decision each person should have been able to make their own choice without losing their job and that changing the rules for NHS staff shows that it was unfair for them. 

She added: "I don't think you can have one rule one and one rule for another, that's just discrimination."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke - Credit: HM Treasury

Mr Clarke told Sky News that ministers had hoped to find “the right balance between having the maximum impact for measures that support public safety in the face of the virus, but also have the minimum impact in terms of our wider freedoms as a society”.

He added: “And it’s in that context that a decision was made last autumn to make sure we went ahead with the mandatory vaccination policy, and that was because, obviously, we had the Delta variant, which was extremely dangerous, and was taking a huge toll on our society, and we had to make sure that people going into hospital, very vulnerable people, whether they had Covid or another condition which required treatment, weren’t going to be faced with an increased risk of infection on the wards.

“We continue to monitor that situation very, very closely. What we know about Omicron is that it is much, much more transmissible but less severe – any decision that is taken this week will reflect that reality."

Meanwhile, the National Care Association tweeted that the sector lost "some amazing people" due to the November deadline and that the damage had already been done.

Care Home Chief, Prema Fairburn-Dorai. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Care home chief, Prema Fairburn-Dorai - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chair of Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers said she was "furious" when she heard the rule would be reversed for NHS staff.

"I can see the reasoning and we would have liked the same, I think it's the lack of parity that's making me so angry," she told this paper.

"There's absolutely no equality, they've recognised now that they might lose a lot of staff in the NHS, but when we went on about it in the care sector they didn't want to know.

"The care sector has suffered tremendously over the introduction of the mandatory vaccinations, we've lost whole loads of staff, it's brought us to our knees."

More factors such as low rises in wages and increasing living costs has left Ms Fairburn-Dorai questioning how much more strain the sector can take.

David Finch, managing director of Cephas Care based in Ipswich has spoken of his frustration over th

David Finch, managing director of Cephas Care based in Ipswich - Credit: Cephas Care

David Finch, managing director of Cephas Care, said: "Given that it is now recognized Omicron is a variant that seems to have fewer health complications than the Delta variant it is right for this policy to be reviewed and revised.

"We can only follow what legislation and regulations are in place at any given time, however, the NHS and the care sector would have lost a lot of staff come April 1 which would have had a detrimental effect on the whole sector.

"I am sure this will be welcome news for many workers, too late for those who lost their job last November in care homes, I would hope they now may be able to return giving the sector a much needed boost with recruitment."