Care home workers who are not willing to get the Covid jab should “get out and get another job”, the health secretary Sajid Javid has said in a stinging attack on vaccine refuseniks.
Trade unions and care home providers have warned that the sector faces a staffing crisis if thousands of workers lose their jobs for failing a legal requirement to get the vaccine.
The National Care Association has called for a pause in compulsory vaccinations, saying the policy could lead to substandard care or see some homes having to shut their doors.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he would consider a pause, Mr Javid said: “No, I won’t. What I don’t accept is slowing down the requirement to vaccinate.”
The health secretary said: “Look, if you want to work in care home, you are working with some of the most vulnerable people in our country. And if you can’t be bothered to go and get vaccinated, then get out and go and get another job.”
Mr Javid added: “If you want to look after [vulnerable people], if you want to feed them, if you want to put them to bed, then you should get vaccinated. If you’re not going to get vaccinated then why are working in care?”
Asked how the country would cope with staff shortages if tens of thousands of care workers quit the sector, Mr Javid said: “There are other people … who will come forward.”
Nadra Ahmed, executive chairman of the National Care Association, has estimated that 70,000 people could be forced to leave the sector because of mandatory vaccination.
She told the BMJ some the departure of staff was already having a serious impact. “We’ve heard of providers shutting the doors, they just can’t go on any more.”
Care home workers in England were told to have their first Covid jab by the end of 16 September to meet the government’s deadline for full vaccination of 11 November.
Last month the Department of Health and Social Care said that more than 90 per cent of eligible social care staff had received a first dose by the deadline, and around 84 per cent had already been given a second dose.
Mr Javid also waded into a row over the push to get GPs doing more face-to-face appointments – insisting that the return to pre-pandemic normality “needs to move much faster”.
Leading professional bodies has pushed back against calls for face-to-face appointments to become the default again, warned that Covid infection levels were still too high for practices to return to packed waiting rooms.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told MPs last month: “There’s no point in having a right if it’s undeliverable at the moment because of the workload pressures.”
The health secretary told Today: “We are in discussion with GP leaders. We need to work together to make sure we can give patients more of the choice they are asking for.”
Mr Javid added: “There are patients who might prefer remote consultation. But there are others who prefer face to face. To get where we need to be there has to be a partnership with GPs, working together to alleviate some of the pressures they face.”