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DHSC: ‘Significant degree of uncertainty’ about impact of mandated vaccines in care homes

by Jess Hacker
21 July 2021

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There is a ‘significant degree of uncertainty’ as to how mandating vaccines for staff and GPs visiting care homes will impact behaviour change, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

This new regulation – announced last month (16 June) and due to be enforced from October – will mandate that anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they are medically exempt.

MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the regulations last week, despite criticism that the vote was called before the impact assessment had been published.

The assessment – which has now been published – found that the main anticipated impact is the ‘displacement of workers’ who have not received two doses by the end of the 16-week grace period.

It said: ‘There is a significant degree of uncertainty resulting from the unknown impact of behaviour change as a result of this policy’s introduction as well as other potential wider freedoms granted to those who are double vaccinated.’

Over £2k to replace each worker

Reflecting this uncertainty, the assessment authors produced three estimates of the proportion of the workforce who will not meet the new conditions for deployment.

The DHSC’s central estimate suggests 40,000 (7%) of the 570,000 working in CQC-registered care homes may be unvaccinated at the end of the 16-week period, with upper and lower estimates of 12% (70,000) and 3% (17,000).

It also estimated that the full possible cost for replacing these staff members could reach £2,500 per worker, based on the stated costs of recruitment by a small adult social care provider reported by Skills for Care.

It said that the ‘costs from this source are based on a single small adult social care provider that employs 20 full time equivalent care workers and recruits six over the course of 12 months’.

Anticipated short-term impact on staffing

Mandating vaccines is likely to have a significant impact on staffing in the short- to medium-term for some providers, the DHSC added.

Having to replace staff could present a risk to staffing levels, given the existing reports of capacity and recruitment issues and the sector’s annual turnover rate of around 33%, it suggested.

‘However, we believe it is likely that any exits will occur throughout the 16-week grace period and not all at once, therefore representing increased turnover rather than a very sudden reduction in staff,’ it said.

Additionally, some care homes may have higher levels of vaccine hesitancy among staff than others, which ‘may be focused in certain areas or regions’.

Meanwhile, the document also acknowledged ‘a temporary loss of job for those who may leave the workforce due to the policy’ but did not elaborate on support available to those people.