Labour have urged the Government to scrap plans to force care home staff to get vaccinated – following warnings the new rule will cause a catastrophic staff shortage in Birmingham.
We reported that Paulette Hamilton, the Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care in Birmingham’s Labour-led city council, has written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to delay the measure. She warned that 2,690 Birmingham care home workers are not yet double-jabbed, and preventing them from working could lead to “mass unavailability of care home beds”.
Now, the national Labour Party have echoed the warning in a debate in Parliament. Labour urged the Government to scrap the policy of compulsory vaccinations entirely, saying it could have “disastrous consequences”.
But Government Ministers insisted they would press ahead with the policy, and could extend it to other frontline health and care workers.
Under the current plans, anyone working or volunteering in Care Quality Commission-regulated residential care homes will need to be fully vaccinated from November 11. While nobody can be forced to accept a vaccination, care home staff that decline will be told they cannot come in to work.
In Birmingham, 14% of the adult social care workforce are totally unvaccinated, and 23% of the workforce have had their first vaccination but are yet to receive a second jab.
Labour’s policy was set out by Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington), a Birmingham MP who was representing the party leadership in his role as a shadow minister in the debate. He told MPs: “On health and social care workers, we want everyone working in care homes to take up the vaccine – that is absolutely essential. The vaccine is safe and effective. I stress again: do not believe the sometimes poisonous propaganda of the anti-vaxxers.
“However, we do not support the case for compulsory vaccination. There are serious warnings from the care sector that the Government’s plan could lead to staff shortages in already understaffed care homes, which would have disastrous consequences for the quality of care.”
He said the Government should follow the example of the Labour-led administration in Wales, which decided against compulsory vaccinations.
“The UK Government should learn from the work done in Wales, which is running the fastest vaccination programme in the world, and has vaccinated a far greater proportion of its care staff than England.
“The Welsh Government have rejected compulsory vaccinations and have instead chosen to work closely with the care sector to drive up uptake, as well as valuing the workforce, including a proper pay rise.”
But Health Minister Maggie Throup said there would be no backing down. She said: “Thanks to the incredible efforts of people across the sector, over 1.2 million social care workers in England have now been vaccinated. This is a fantastic achievement and an important step for staff to protect themselves, their loved ones and the people they care for from becoming seriously ill or dying from covid-19.”
She said the rule was designed to encourage more people to take the vaccine.
“Vaccine uptake nationally in the care home workforce is high, at 85.6% for first doses. This is in line with vaccine uptake in the general population. There is, however, significant variation at a regional, local and individual care home level. Vaccine requirements are designed to level up uptake in the care home workforce.”
The policy could be extended, she said: “While residents in care homes are some of the most at risk from covid-19, the responses to this initial consultation on care homes made a clear case for extending this policy to other settings where vulnerable people receive care and treatments. The Government are therefore seeking views on whether to extend vaccination requirements to other frontline health and care workers—those with face-to-face contact with patients and clients through the delivery of services.”
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