Chairman of Peterborough care centre says compulsory vaccines for care workers could lead to staff shortages

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The chairman of a care centre in Peterborough 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. The company employs 250 staff at its Eagle Wood site in Peterborough and 220 staff at its sites in Milton Keynes.

PJ Care was recently ranked as one of the UK’s top ten health and social care employers in the ‘Best Companies’ awards and is an accredited Living Wage Employer. 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.

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Mr Russell said; “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,

Neil RussellNeil Russell
Neil Russell

“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.”

Research carried out by the GMB union suggests more than a third of carers would quit their jobs if vaccines were mandated.

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“The welfare of our residents is our absolute priority,” added Neil. “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.

“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.”