Milton Keynes care home slams compulsory Covid jabs for staff as 'appalling'
The boss of two care centres in MK has spoken out against forcing his staff to be vaccinated against Covid.
Neil Russell, head of PJ Care, has dismissed the idea of compulsory vaccinations for his staff as 'appalling and likely to spread mistrust of the vaccine'.
Mr Russell heads up PJ Care, which cares for adults with degenerative conditions such as dementia or people with acquired brain injuries. The company employs 470 staff at its Mallard House and Bluebirds care centres in MK and a third site in Peterborough.
The majority of the team have been vaccinated but Neil says he will not make it a condition of employment.
He is speaking out after the government last week launched a five-week consultation on proposals to require staff in these settings to have a Covid-19 vaccine as part of their conditions of employment.
“We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to Covid-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe," says Health Secretary Matt Hancock
The move follows concerns that 53 per cent all care homes with older adults do not meet the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies’ (SAGE) recommended thresholds for vaccination.
SAGE advises that 80 per cent of staff and 90 per cent of care home residents should be vaccinated to provide a minimum protection level against any further Covid outbreaks.
Neil said: “I’m pleased to see that the government has launched a consultation, rather than just pushing ahead with this, but I am appalled by the idea of making vaccinations mandatory. It would only cause unnecessary and irrevocable damage to a sector that has suffered more than most during the pandemic."
He added: “There are many reasons staff may have for waiting to have the vaccine, or even refusing it altogether - being pregnant is one example as there is not yet enough evidence to determine the safety of the vaccines for expectant mothers. In the UK, vaccinations are well-established but that’s not the case for all cultures, some of which have experienced historical misuse of vaccines that still give cause for concern today.
“It is a case of trust. This mistrust can be overcome, but only through time and demonstration of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Making it mandatory will only increase the mistrust.”
Neil who was the first of his staff to receive the Covid jab at Milton Keynes Hospital, but he says making vaccination compulsory would have "disastrous" effects on the care industry.
“The sector could lose enough staff to embroil an already underfunded industry in a recruitment war as homes seek to fill vacancies. This would result in financial problems for many homes, causing closures and people in need of care having nowhere to go, but into hospitals that are already struggling with bed availability.
“We must ask why they are only looking at imposing the vaccine on care workers in homes with anyone over the age of 65 and not elsewhere such as homes with younger vulnerable adults or hospitals where patients are more vulnerable. Not enough is known about the vaccine yet to be able to evidence its effect on transmission rates so even with all staff vaccinated, the risk to those in their care remains the same and staff will still need to wear full PPE and follow strict infection control measures.
“While vaccinating care workers is important, greater protection can be achieved by ensuring the residents are vaccinated, combined with diligent infection control measures and effective use of PPE. That’s the way I believe we will best protect the vulnerable in all our care facilities.”