Milton Keynes care home boss says compulsory jabs for workers will lead to staffing crisis

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New ruling could result in loss of care beds or even the closure of entire care homes, he says

The chairman of two care centres in Milton Keynes has warned that government plans to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for carers in homes for older adults could lead to a staffing crisis in the sector.

Neil Russell heads PJ Care, a provider of care for adults with degenerative conditions such as dementia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and those with acquired brain injuries.

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The company employs 220 staff at its Mallard House and Bluebirds care centres.

Neil RussellNeil Russell
Neil Russell

The majority of the team have been vaccinated but the remainder are facing mandatory jabs in the plan expected to be confirmed by the government in the next few days.

The plan follows a five week consultation with the industry and will apply to staff in settings caring for at least one person over the age of 65.

“Much as we are in support of care staff being vaccinated, I’m disappointed to see that they are going to be forced to do so,” said Neil.

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“From day one when I videoed my vaccination at Milton Keynes hospital, we have been giving staff clear information and encouraging them to take part. However, doubts will always remain for some.

“These may be health related, there may be cultural concerns or not sufficient reassurances yet for expectant mothers or those who want to start a family. For them, there will be no option but to leave the profession. For an industry that is already struggling to meet recruitment needs, it could mean an exodus of staff across the UK, resulting in the loss of care beds or even the closure of entire homes. People in need of care would then have to remain in hospital as there wouldn’t be capacity in the community.”

Neil’s concerns about the impact of the plan are echoed by a number of other bodies including Age UK, the Independent Care Group and the National Care Association. Research carried out by the GMB union suggests more than a third of carers would quit their jobs if vaccines were mandated.

“The welfare of our residents is our absolute priority,” he said. “We continue to maintain infection control protocols and staff wear appropriate PPE to protect those we care for. We would be devastated to have to terminate the employment of highly trained carers because of this decision.

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“We invest a great deal in their knowledge and skills, and their career paths. Some are working towards becoming nurses and have inspired their children to study healthcare qualifications. We would hate to see that go to waste.”