Care home providers face losing 40,000 staff from the government’s policy of requiring all their staff to be fully vaccinated, exacerbating job losses already suffered this year.
The figure is the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) best estimate of the impact of its policy of requiring all staff working in care homes to be fully vaccinated, which will come into force in November. It represents 7% of the 570,000 people employed in in CQC-registered homes.
The DHSC calculated each job loss would cost £2,500 to replace in backfill, recruitment, induction and training costs, leaving providers with an estimated one-off bill of £100m.
However, independent sector care homes have already been losing staff since April this year, according to provisional figures released by Skills for Care, which showed drops in job numbers of 0.8% in April, 0.7% in May by 1.6% in June. The The decline has been steeper for care homes for older people, nursing homes and among care worker roles .
In relation to care worker jobs across the residential sector, estimated losses were 1.9% in April, 1.6% in May and 3.4% in June. This is in contrast to the situation in domiciliary care – for which compulsory vaccination will not apply – which saw estimated job growth of 0.6% in April, 1.1% in May and 0.1% in June.
The reasons for the drop in care home jobs specifically are unclear, though services have seen significant drops in occupancy as a result of the pandemic, potentially reducing the need for staff. Occupancy rates fell from 84% in March 2020 to 75% in May 2021, among homes without nursing, and 87% to 81% among nursing homes.
However, provider leaders pointed to factors to do with the supply of staff, with care workers exiting the sector due to stress and burnout.
A recent survey by third sector provider umbrella body the National Care Forum (NCF) found that about 60% of members had seen an increase in the rate of staff exit, with 40% of leaving staff departing for another sector.
NCF chief executive officer Vic Rayner warned that the government’s estimates of the impact of the vaccine policy recognised the “very significant and potentially catastrophic challenges for the delivery of care if the right level of guidance and support is not available”.
‘Stress and burnout’
Rayner added: “Early indications from members show that the trend for exiting social care is higher than normal, that some services have to close or be reorganised as a result of these shortages, and that we have a workforce that is stressed, burnt out and looking for the door.”
She also said that while many staff were leaving to join the health sector, others were going to join hospitality and retail, which also face a high vacancy rate. Per 100 jobs, there are about 4.5 vacant positions in accommodation and food service activities according to the Office for National Statistics figures released this month, compared with an average vacancy rate of 2.9% across all industries.
With turnover of 29.6% in residential homes and 36.8% in nursing homes in 2019-20, the government’s analysis suggested that some staff who leave as a result of the vaccination policy would have left for other reasons. The DHSC also said it expected councils to manage the risks to local services of the expected job losses, in line with their duties under the Care Act, for which they would receive support from the DHSC’s regional team.
However, on Twitter, Simon Bottery, senior fellow for social care at the King’s Fund, said that these anticipated mitigations of the impact of job losses were “over-optimistic”.
He said that many of the of those who normally leave their jobs go elsewhere in the sector rather than leave residential care altogether, as would be required under the vaccination policy. While some may go into domiciliary care, where the policy doesn’t apply, it’s not clear how much traffic there is between the two sectors, he said.
In relation to councils having contingency plans in place, Bottery added: “I look forward to hearing from those councils who feel they can deal with the loss of between 3% and 12% of their care home workforce.”