After a very dark and difficult time for the whole of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the welcome reports that the UK has reached its initial vaccination target has provided some much needed good news.
However, this has been tempered for everyone in social care by the admission on 15 February 2021 that a third of care staff are yet to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination. Here at ENA, we joined together with other live-in care providers to contribute to this article published by the Guardian that highlighted the challenges we are facing:
“Exclusive figures given to the Guardian from 12 live-in care companies, employing 6,000-8,000 staff, show that as of 10 February, 4,000-5,500 live-in carers – nearly 70% of carers – have yet to have their first vaccine shot.”
Why has vaccinating live-in carers proved problematic?
ENA supports clients throughout the UK, and as such many of our carers are living with their clients many miles away from their own homes for long periods of time. This means that we’ve encountered issues with vaccination since December that include:
- Access to a carer’s own GP is limited. The online booking system has allowed carers to book locally to their home address but sometimes not for a location close to where they are working.
- Many GP surgeries with whom our clients are registered will not accept any responsibility for vaccinating our client’s live-in carer.
- Some of our workers are not registered with a GP. This is often because the UK is not their permanent home but they travel here to work for several months. Without GP registration a carer will not have an NHS number.
- The logistics of getting our carers to our head office so that they can attend our allocated vaccination centre means huge disruption for our clients. To remove a live-in carer from a placement to travel to our allocated vaccination centre means a replacement carer going in for a minimum 24-hour handover to ensure the client remains safe. The carer being vaccinated then has to travel, often on public transport (which increases the risk of infection), and may need to stay overnight locally if the placement is too far to return the same day. This will then need to be repeated for the carer to attend the second vaccination.
Why is vaccinating our carers important to ENA?
Having a healthy frontline care workforce is vital to all social care providers to enable us to support our clients to the very best of our ability. The nature of ENA live-in care, with one carer per client for up to 12 weeks at a time and rigorous infection control procedures, has meant that COVID-19 infection rates amongst our staff and clients are extremely low in comparison with other types of social care provision. It is vital we maintain this in the future, and vaccination provides the best way to keep our clients, our carers and wider society as healthy as possible as lockdown eases in the coming months.
Of course, everyone has their own personal opinions regarding vaccination, but we feel privileged to be recognised as important enough to receive COVID-19 vaccinations within the first phase. Carers are all too often forgotten or seen as unimportant. This puts us on the map, and highlights the need to have a healthy frontline care workforce in the UK.
Do ENA carers want to be vaccinated?
Undoubtedly, the vast majority of our carers want access to COVID-19 vaccination. Very few of our carers have declined the vaccination, while some remain unsure. Feedback from our carers who have had the vaccination is positive, with Donna W saying:
“I don’t like needles but was fortunate enough to be able to receive the vaccination through my own GP. This was administered by a nurse who knows me well and took time to calm and reassure me. I received help to complete the form required and then received my vaccination.
It was very quick and I hardly felt it. It was nothing like they show on the news broadcasts, it was quicker, less painful than I thought it would be and worth it in the long run. A few seconds of discomfort and feeling a little fragile the next day is worth it to save months of suffering and possibly passing the virus on to someone else. The short 24-hour side effects that I experienced are nothing compared to what could happen if I got the virus which has the potential to kill. I recommend the vaccine; there is nothing to fear from having it.”
How will ENA work to ensure our live-in carers are vaccinated?
With the National Booking Service now live, we hope to get more of our live-in carers booked in for vaccinations. Dr Jane Townston, Chief Executive of the UK Homecare Association, explains in this blog for the Department of Health and Social Care that the procedure is now as follows:
“If you are a specialist live-in care provider with staff supporting people in local authority areas far from your registered location, you will need to contact both the council where your office is based and the equivalent local authorities nearest to where your live-in care workers are on assignment.”
We will continue to work with our live-in carers, and the local authorities in their placement areas and our head office location to ensure our carers have access to vaccination at the earliest opportunity.
In the meantime, we urge anyone who is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to access the following resources to find out more: