Consultation on ending Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment in health and all social care settings

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the care sector has seen thousands of care home workers resign or be dismissed, following the introduction of mandatory vaccination legislation on 11 November 2021. The current legislation requires mandatory vaccination for care home workers within CQC registered care homes that provide accommodation for people needing nursing or personal care, unless they can evidence a valid exemption. It is estimated that the care home workforce has lost around 40,000 staff as a result.

After growing concern over the stability of the health and social care sector, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid has announced to Parliament that the government will launch a consultation on ending Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCD) in health and all social care settings in the United Kingdom. This move came days before the 3 February 2022 deadline for unvaccinated NHS workers, who have been facing  an ultimatum of having their first dose of vaccine or being dismissed.

Subject to the responses received to the consultation and parliamentary approval, the Secretary of State will revoke the regulations.

Continue reading “Consultation on ending Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment in health and all social care settings”

The continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – a staffing crisis in the care sector

As at 5 January 2022, over 11,000 care home workers were reported to have been off work due to COVID-19. Over 90 care home operators in England have declared a “red” alert, meaning staffing ratios have been breached. Care Forum Wales reported that up to 75% of care staff are currently off work. Appeals to the Welsh Government have been made by numerous care homes for a significant increase in PPE to address this. This is a major problem with clear consequences for care standards. However, staff absence due to self-isolation is not the only pandemic-related issue likely to impact staffing levels.

Reduced staffing levels will negatively impact the standard of care which remaining staff are able to provide to residents, with the potential of increasing the risk of injury and neglect due to an insufficient carer to resident ratio. Some care home operators have reportedly felt forced to allow employees with positive COVID-19 tests to continue working in order to address the risks presented by the lack of staff, which in turn presents the additional risk of transmission to elderly and vulnerable residents. It is not clear how care providers will be able to alleviate these risks, or whether further Government assistance will be provided.

Continue reading “The continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – a staffing crisis in the care sector”

Care rates continue to increase, but by how much?

On 26 October 2021 the Office for National Statistics released the latest data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). These are provisional figures based on estimates of income from a 1% sample of workers’ HMRC records for the tax year ending 5 April 2021, and they will be revised and updated in due course as the data is finalised. The provisional data provides a steer on how the earnings across all industries are changing. Those dealing with catastrophic injury claims will be particularly interested in the data relating to care workers as the rates are directly applicable to the recalculation of existing periodical payment orders.

The latest data shows an average increase in care rates across the 60th-90th percentile of 2.6%. Practitioners will be aware that the hourly rates actually compensated within a catastrophic injury claim are typically significantly higher than those quoted in ASHE, given that ASHE covers all care workers (most of whom are state funded) whereas a catastrophic injury claim is typically compensated on the basis of a private care package which can be twice the hourly rates quoted within ASHE. That being said, the rates might offer an indication of trends in care costs generally.

Continue reading “Care rates continue to increase, but by how much?”

MPs approve compulsory vaccinations in the care home sector

We recently commented on the government’s plans for vaccinations to become mandatory for all care home workers. Yesterday, MPs approved this initiative despite a small number of dissenting voices within the Conservative rank and file. Passing with a majority of 319 votes to 246, anyone working in a care home registered with the Care Quality Commission in England must have had two vaccine doses by October, unless they have a medical exemption.

The feuding within the Conservative party appears to focus on the lack of any published impact assessment of the policy before the vote (Health Minister, Helen Whately told MPs this was being worked on), something which many argue is imperative when balancing risks and imposing such measures on an entire (and already stretched) healthcare sector particularly in a group of workers which has a very low take up of the vaccine.

Continue reading “MPs approve compulsory vaccinations in the care home sector”

Practical steps care homes ought to be taking in light of the Government’s mandatory vaccination announcement

According to reports in the media this week, Whitehall sources are saying it is shortly about to be announced that vaccination is to be made compulsory for care home staff caring for the elderly and vulnerable and looked at for NHS staff.

This move follows a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched in April amidst concerns raised by figures showing there have been over 40,000 deaths in care homes due to COVID-19 and a low uptake of the vaccine amongst care home staff.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has told the BBC that the government’s announcement of its decision on mandatory vaccination for care home staff was “very imminent.”

Continue reading “Practical steps care homes ought to be taking in light of the Government’s mandatory vaccination announcement”

Time to prioritise the mental health of our care workers?

As the pandemic continues, more statistics are coming to light in respect of the wider impact COVID-19 has had, not least on the mental health of frontline care workers. A survey undertaken by the trade union GMB found that 75% of care workers said that their work during this pandemic has led to their mental health being negatively affected. The survey found that many felt their mental health had declined during the second wave of the pandemic, with whose who were only entitled to statutory sick pay reporting lower mental health scores. 

The Worldwide Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe recently produced a short film with healthcare workers discussing the impact the pandemic has had on their mental health, as well as the challenges they have faced, whilst providing care throughout for their patients. The main mental health consequences raised were loneliness, elevated stress levels or anxiety, insomnia and depression. There is no doubt that those providing frontline care throughout, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Care workers have continued to provide care and support to their patients and the wider public throughout the pandemic, bravely facing the challenges this has thrown at them. 

Continue reading “Time to prioritise the mental health of our care workers?”

Assistive technology in a reformed social care system

We wrote in 2019 about the role of assistive technology in how it could help social care users.  A new Commission by two care bodies has now been launched to explore the role of assistive technology in a reformed social care system.  The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the weaknesses and frailties of the UK social care system.  What role could assistive technology play in creating a more robust social care system for the future?

Continue reading “Assistive technology in a reformed social care system”

Lack of PPE may have contributed towards COVID-19 death of a home care client

There has been significant focus in the media in the last few months on the effect of COVID-19 on the care sector and in particular the lack of PPE available, especially at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

A recent report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has highlighted confusing governmental guidance on whether home care carers should wear PPE or not.  The HSIB investigates patient safety in NHS funded care.  The HSIB report notes that the primary guidance produced by Public Health England on 6 April 2020 did not mention the need to wear PPE when caring for an “extremely clinically vulnerable” client.  Further guidance produced after the report did mention the need to wear PPE but the primary domiciliary care guidance was not updated until 13 May 2020 to confirm that PPE should be worn when visiting extremely clinically vulnerable clients.   

Continue reading “Lack of PPE may have contributed towards COVID-19 death of a home care client”

How many deaths in care have there actually been?

It is no secret that the spread of COVID-19 within the care sector has been the subject of significant media attention and cause for concern amongst those involved with care. But how hard can it be to answer the question: ‘How many deaths on care has there actually been?’ The answer is: it’s all in the detail. Continue reading “How many deaths in care have there actually been?”

“We are facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease.”

“We are facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease.”
Robert Stevens Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, US.

With medical science struggling to keep up with coronavirus and its consequences, it will be several years at least before more conclusive studies as to the long term impacts of the pandemic can be produced. The law lags even further behind.

Whilst COVID-19 has largely been considered to be a respiratory disease, more than 300 studies from around the world report a significant number of COVID-19 patients are displaying neurological abnormalities ranging from mild symptoms, such as headaches and loss of smell, to more severe variants commonly associated with mild to moderate brain injury.

Continue reading ““We are facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease.””