London to lose thousands of care home staff with mandatory Covid vaccine rule change

Already understaffed care home providers face losing hundreds of unvaccinated workers when the rules change in a few weeks time - right before the difficult winter period.

London care homes will lose thousands of workers in a few weeks’ time, after staff missed a deadline to get their first Covid jab before mandatory vaccination kicks in.

After 11 November, staff will be excluded from working in care homes if they are not fully vaccinated.

To meet this deadline, the last chance for workers to get their first dose was 16 September, given the time needed between a first and second jab.

The figures mean care homes may soon face losing one in 12 of their workers, with only 91.8% of staff reported to be vaccinated by the cutoff.

A further 3,896 workers still needed to get their second jab before 11 November if they are to remain working.

The adult social care sector, including but not limited to care homes, already has around 18,000 vacancies at any one time – a vacancy rate of 10% – according to the latest estimates from charity Skills for Care, covering 2019-20.

In some boroughs, the strain on providers could be massive.

Greenwich stands to be the worst affected local authority London, and the second worst in the country, according to the NHS figures.

Government data says that only 83.6% of staff vaccinated with a first dose on time.

That could wipe out a sixth of its care home workforce - 250 staff - in one fell swoop when the legal restrictions kick in.

Greenwich Council disputes the NHS figures, and says that 93% of workers have had at least their first dose.

The second worst affected borough was Southwark, with 12.9% of care home staff unvaccinated after the cut off.

The Skills for Care charity estimated there is already an 8% vacancy rate in the south London borough.

Wandsworth and Croydon both could also have issues after November 11, with each council potentially losing more than one in 10 of its care home workers.

Ealing, in west London, had the highest proportion of vaccinated care home staff, with only 3.5% having neither of their Covid vaccines.

Government guidance states that providers should “explore all options” to redeploy unvaccinated staff elsewhere, but that dismissal will remain an option if this is not possible.

Staff who can prove they cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons will be exempt.

The vaccination figures quoted include both permanent and agency staff employed by independent and local authority-run care homes for people aged 65 and over, and independent care homes for adults aged under 65.

Any staff employed directly by councils in younger adult care homes are missing from the figures – but the vast majority of care staff in the country work for independent providers.


Greenwich Council was asking it they planned to cope with the looming crisis.

A spokesperson said: “The figures reported are wholly inaccurate - this is due to data quality and reporting issues that are being addressed.

“We are working with local providers to ensure data is accurate.

“Our local intelligence indicates that 7% of the care home workforce remain unvaccinated after the first dose deadline.

“We are working closely with providers to ensure the resilience of their service including business contingency planning.”

NHS England however has been publishing the data on a weekly basis since the vaccine rollout began in December, and has flagged no data quality issues.

Across England, 42,698 care home workers had not had their first vaccine as of 19 September.

The Local Government Association said many care home staff could get higher wages in supermarkets, and that the Government should raise wages in an extra effort to persuade them to stay and get vaccinated.

Chairman of LGA’s community wellbeing board, David Fothergill, said: “Care providers have undoubtedly found this new requirement challenging and the care workforce should be supported through other measures, such as increased pay or improved terms and conditions, which could form part of a long-term, sustainable solution for adult social care.”

Care England, which represents providers, warned earlier this month that the sector was “at breaking point” over recruitment and retention – even before the loss of unvaccinated workers.

Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “The writing is on the wall and without immediate help, as given to the NHS, the social care sector will crumple and not be there to support the NHS over the winter let alone in years to come”.

Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB union, which represents some care staff, said bosses were now having to think about how to keep residents safe.

"Forced vaccination of our embattled care workers is an insensitive and cruel way to address vaccine hesitancy,” she said.

"If employers and ministers are to tackle the vacancy crisis then they must drop this policy, fix poverty sick pay rates, and raise pay – GMB is demanding no less than the £15 an hour that care workers deserve.”

The DHSC was asked if it would be pressing ahead with the rule change, in the face of a potentially massive loss of staff.

A spokesperson said: “Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk for vulnerable people in care homes.

“We are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high quality care.”