Yesterday, we heard the results of the public consultation regarding the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine for social care and the NHS.
The consultation ran for one week following a backlash from both sectors. An astonishing 90,000 people responded, with an overwhelming 90% supporting the removal of the legal requirement.
As a result, we’ll see the U-turn of mandatory COVID jabs for NHS and social care staff in England from 1 April 2022.
The impact of mandatory vaccinations
The introduction of COVID vaccinations for staff has been detrimental for the social care sector.
Loss of staff
We’ve seen care homes lose over 40,000 staff, many of those who won’t return.
It makes me sad to think of their skills and experience being lost, and the impact this will have had on the people being supported who’ve lost the person who knew their care needs.
On top of this, colleagues and teams have had to try and cover shifts, leading to an increase in burnout.
Care homes saw recruitment heavily impacted, with many providers reporting fewer applicants. Many of those who applied, dropped out after interview due to not wanting the vaccine.
Home care, the NHS and other care services benefited in the early stages of the mandate, as we saw care home staff leave and move into these services. However, I’m doubtful that people who left residential care roles will want to go back to their old jobs after being settled for nearly a year.
The impact on recruitment has since hit these services since the mandate was extended, with many reporting staff resigning and reduced applications. Some providers have had no choice but to hand back visits and cease caring for people.
I’m hopeful with the revoked mandate, we’ll now see green shoots and recruitment will start to pick up again.
"We saw 40,000 care home staff leave the sector, with thousands of social care professionals and organisations calling for the government to scrap the mandate."
I’ve spoken to managers and old colleagues who’ve gone through consultations regarding the vaccines. Many have had to go through disciplinary processes with team members who chose not to have the vaccine, who they consider to be friends and have worked with for significant periods of time.
I can’t imagine the impact on mental health if you’re having to sit and dismiss someone who has no performance issues, who you wouldn’t want to remove from your team.
The impact of the mandate, combined with the lack of planning for social care, has seen people in receipt of care greatly impacted.
We’ve heard of long waiting times for NHS services, no beds being available and how people aren’t being discharged as there aren’t enough social care provisions for them to go to.
Inside social care, we’ve seen some homes close due to lack of staffing, having a significant impact on service users.
Upheaval for clients and families
The mandate has impacted people in receipt of care, those who’ve had to move care providers or be moved to a new care home with unfamiliar staff and surroundings.
Again, this makes me think about the impact on physical and mental health. Clients are having to re-tell their life stories and explain their support needs again, with a lack of continuity of care.
We’ve also seen in the media at a national level the impact on relatives and friends, many who’ve not been able to visit loved ones due to the government guidance for care homes, and now have family living miles away because of capacity issues.
Did the NHS make a difference?
I can’t help but wonder if the decision would’ve been reversed if the NHS hadn’t been brought into the mix.
We saw 40,000 care home staff leave the sector, with thousands of social care professionals and organisations calling for the government to scrap the mandate. But it wasn’t until the NHS began to be affected and started a media campaign that the government finally listened and took action.
I believe this highlights the disparity between social care and health care – we need to be on equal footing.
It’s not all negative though.
The mandate has seen a greater acknowledgement for care workers and social care, with many members of the public backing the workforce and speaking out about how one day we were clapping frontline staff, then sacking them the next.
We’ve also seen an increase in positive stories about social care in the media and greater awareness about how vital social care is to keeping people out of hospital and ensuring they receive the right support.
If the vaccine mandate has taught us anything it’s that the NHS can’t survive without social care. The impact of this one decision shows what can happen when we have a government that fails to listen to the sector and people within it.