'Huge step forward': Nine in 10 care home staff across Shropshire have had Covid jab

Around nine in 10 care home staff across the county have now had a coronavirus jab, with bosses today hailing the effort as a 'huge step forward' in returning to a pre-pandemic life.

Dr Caron Morton gives a Covid jab to Harry Sunderland, staff member at Hagley Place Care Home in Ludlow
Dr Caron Morton gives a Covid jab to Harry Sunderland, staff member at Hagley Place Care Home in Ludlow

Latest NHS figures show the area is above regional and national averages for uptake among workers.

It comes as care home staff could be required by law to receive a Covid-19 vaccination under plans by the Government.

A five-week consultation on mandatory jabs has been launched following concerns about whether enough carers have been vaccinated to stop the virus spreading to residents.

But the move has provoked criticism from trade union Unison which said mandatory vaccinations could "backfire" and lead to a staffing shortage.

In Shropshire, 3,404 out of 3,838 eligible staff, including agency workers, at older adult care homes had received a first dose by April 11, according to NHS figures.

It accounts for around 89 per cent.

While 1,157, or 88 per cent of eligible staff at Telford and Wrekin care homes have had their jab.

The visiting pod at Wheatlands Care Home with hostess Carolyn Abberley, resident Cynthia Espley and team leader Lucy Gray

Mary Jane Jekiel, manager of Hagley Place Care Home in Ludlow, says all its staff and residents have now been vaccinated, bringing benefits and relief over the protection it offers.

The care home, which has 48 residents, is run by Barchester Healthcare which has adopted a policy not to hire new staff who have refused to have a coronavirus vaccine on non-medical grounds.

Mary said: "It is keeping residents safe and gives us the ability to transition back to normality with families having indoor visits, which they are enjoying.

"We have taken on board everything the government has told us to do and we have started getting more enquires as people are reassured that care homes are safe."

She said the care home had even been able to organise a day trip out for its residents and had booked an entertainer to come and perform in its garden.

"Life is getting back to normality, although we still have to take precautions," said Mary.

"It's mainly because of testing, staff due diligence and they have had their vaccinations."

Protection

The uptake among staff at Horsehay-based Myford House Nursing Home has also been very good, according to its deputy manager Jane Watson.

She said: "It's definitely a bonus because we know it reduces the risk for the vulnerable people we look after.

"They are our priority. The more protection we can give them, the better.

"It's a huge step forward for us all.

"It's the light at the end of the tunnel for everyone, things are slowly returning to normal."

At Wheatlands Care Home, in Much Wenlock, all staff and residents have also had their vaccinations.

Wheatlands Care Home manager Claire Brewer

Manager Claire Brewer said: "We have a couple of staff awaiting their second doses.

"Having 100 per cent of your staff vaccinated gives you that sense of comfort and reassurance. I know families feel that way too."

She says it has made a big difference, adding: "We are just starting to be able to access minibus trips.

"We are planning our first trip out again into the community which will be in a socially distanced way."

The boss of Shropshire’s largest not-for-profit care provider says the roll-out of Covid jabs to care homes has 'helped tremendously'.

Coverage Care Services runs a number of care homes across the county, which among others have been enjoying welcoming visitors back indoors and a new sense of freedom as restrictions have slowly been lifted.

Last week, Covid restrictions were cautiously eased to allow care home residents in England to receive two visitors indoors, with safety precautions taken.

David Coull, chief executive of Coverage Care Services, said at least 92 per cent of its staff and 93 per cent of residents have now had their Covid jabs.

"It's helped tremendously," he said.

"It's certainly keeping infection rates down.

"It's now over six weeks since we've had anyone contract Covid.

Coverage Care chief executive David Coull pictured with Steve Mills from Border Communications at Montgomery House in Shrewsbury where thermal imaging cameras were installed last year

"In some of our care homes, 100 per cent have been vaccinated. Everyone has become a lot more confident."

He added: "We are now fully open for visitors under the constraints of government guidelines.

"There's been a lot of wet eyes as loved ones have been able to visit, it's been a joy to hear the accounts."

It comes as a five-week consultation on mandatory jabs for care home workers has been launched.

The Government's plan would see older adult care home operators only able to use staff who have received a Covid-19 vaccination.

Workers with evidence of a medical exemption to the jab will still be allowed to work.

'Backfire'

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: "Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.

"Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives."

The idea has received support from some care home providers like Barchester Healthcare whose chief executive Dr Peter Calveley has implemented a similar policy for his staff.

He said providing safe care was the company's "paramount obligation".

However, Unison said the Government should give staff more time, tackle misinformation and put extra resources into areas with low take-up.

General secretary Christina McAnea said: “Too heavy-handed an approach could backfire badly. Some staff may simply up and go, leaving a poorly paid sector already struggling with thousands and thousands of vacancies in a terrible state.

“That could damage the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable, and no one wants that.”

Cultural reasons as well as concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine and anti-vax campaigns have led to some care home workers not taking up the vaccine, the National Care Association, which represents care providers, has said.

Staff, care providers, residents and their families are being urged to take part in the consultation, which is being run by the Department of Health and Social Care. Click here for more information.

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