North Yorkshire care staff shortages at ‘critical’ stage ahead of deadline for compulsory Covid vaccines

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Care staff shortages in North Yorkshire have reached a “critical” stage and are only likely to worsen when compulsory Covid vaccines come into force on 11 November, a council boss has warned.

Justine Brooksbank, assistant chief executive at North Yorkshire County Council, said 252 workers have yet to receive a first vaccine dose and that some staff in the already depleted workforce have now begun the process of leaving their jobs.

She said 13 staff have served notice to leave, while three have been redeployed and a further 12 are awaiting clinical exemption.

However, Mrs Brooksbank added redeployment into other areas such as health services is “proving difficult” as the government has recently ended a consultation on compulsory vaccines for these workers as well as care staff.

She said: “This situation is likely to worsen the already critical staffing shortages across the county’s care sector.

“Adult social care is vitally important to our residents and we are pulling out all the stops to support the sector in every way possible during current challenges.

“We have done everything possible to communicate with all our care staff about the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination and to assuage any fears they may have.

“The county council along with other care providers as well as national government are next month launching a robust recruitment campaign in order to address the significant and growing pressures in the care system.”

The staffing shortages are nationwide and have led to warnings from England’s care watchdog that there will be a “tsunami” of people without the care they need this winter unless action is taken.

The Care Quality Commission said in a recent report that staff are “exhausted and depleted,” and that immediate work is needed to address the problem.

On Thursday, the government announced an extra £162.5m to boost the adult social care workforce.

This is in addition to £5.4bn earmarked for social care over the next three years from the government’s health and social care levy, which already includes £500m to be spent on the workforce.

Meanwhile, the health secretary Sajid Javid said on Monday he is “leaning towards” making Covid vaccines compulsory for health workers.

It is estimated around 100,000 NHS staff nationally have yet to get their first jab following the recent consultation into the matter.

At Harrogate hospital, around 350 frontline staff have not been fully vaccinated – representing under 10% of the 3,598-strong workforce.

Dr Jacqueline Andrews, executive medical director at the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, previously said staff were being encouraged to take up the vaccine and that managers were speaking with these workers about their concerns.

She said: “We have encouraged and supported all our staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid to keep themselves, their families, fellow colleagues and patients safe and improve our organisational resilience over what is likely to be a challenging winter.”