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Health and welfare :: Covid
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To add fuel to the fire of the staffing crisis in social care, the government's punitive 'no jab, no job policy' has now come into effect in England.
From 11 November, unvaccinated care home workers are no longer allowed to work in homes. This has meant around 50,000 staff redeployed or losing their jobs overnight, adding to the 170,000 gaps that are expected in social care by the end of the year. The measures are expected to be extended to the rest of the sector next April.
While we must do all we can to protect those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, major alarm bells are ringing for residents going with vital needs unmet this winter. Workers should be encouraged to get vaccinated but not be forced to do so by threat of their jobs. Having severe shortages of care staff puts residents at even further risk.
Being forced to have the vaccine is also likely to have a counterproductive effect. Those who may be sceptical about the jab or have concerns about side effects, should be properly informed about the benefits and risks and be allowed to make a decision based on their own judgement.
Unacceptable numbers of Covid deaths have occurred in care homes. This was not the fault of hardworking care staff but government ineptitude, with shortages of PPE and adequate testing.
Privatised care provision, with low pay and poor working conditions - as well as stigmatising the predominantly migrant workforce - has created the unravelling crisis in social care. Care roles could be very rewarding but because this skilled work is treated so poorly at present, it's no surprise staff are leaving in droves.
If the government really cared about the safety of people with care and support needs, they would ensure that workers were given the respect they deserve to make the job worth doing, and would therefore be better placed to encourage staff to take the vaccine. This would begin to ensure people get the care they need and are safe from both Covid-19 and the numerous dangers of not having sufficient care.
At University Hospital Southampton we are the first hospital Trust to make it compulsory for staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
As a front-line health worker it's frustrating that there are still unvaccinated people coming into hospital very poorly with Covid. Many workers are angry at anti-vaccine propaganda.
However, being vaccinated doesn't guarantee health and care workers wont get Covid, or pass it on to our patients. It's good infection prevention and good-quality PPE that keeps Covid spread to a minimum.
With acute staff shortages, and most hospitals full and over capacity, morale is at an all-time low.
The stress and pressure on staff to get everything done is huge. Here at Southampton, an appeal to non-patient facing staff to help out on the wards was made last week as nursing levels became unsafe. In this situation mistakes are inevitable.
Vaccination against TB and Hep-C is already mandatory in our employment contracts. But if NHS bosses and the government really wanted to keep our patients safe, they would ensure adequate PPE, give us a decent pay rise and seriously train and recruit new staff.
The government and NHS England want to look as if they are doing something about the continuing high numbers of Covid cases, while at the same time blaming the spread on health and care workers.
Those who fear having the vaccine should be encouraged and supported, not bullied and sacked. We expect the leaderships of our unions to back members in this.
Health and welfare keywords:
Covid 19 (2)
Foot and mouth disease (7)
Article dated 17 November 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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