Doubts raised over NHS target for care home vaccinations


NHS England wrote to GP surgeries earlier this month saying it ‘expects’ care home residents and staff to be vaccinated by January 24.

Care groups have expressed doubts that the NHS will meet a target set out in a letter to GPs to have elderly care home residents and staff given a coronavirus vaccine by Sunday.

Care England said it is unlikely this will happen, despite a ramping up of efforts to get the vaccinations into care homes this week.

About two thirds of care home residents have received a vaccination as of Friday, the Prime Minister said, with some care home groups reporting a higher proportion of residents reached.

On January 13 NHS England wrote to GP surgeries saying it “expects” care home residents and staff at homes across England to be vaccinated by the end of the week, or by January 24 “at the latest”.

Highest estimates of people with Covid-19
(PA Graphics)

The Government has said it intends to have offered the jab to all care home residents by the end of January.

On Friday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that all care home residents would receive their first coronavirus vaccine jab “by the end of the month”.

Care groups said they hope the rollout will continue quickly so all are vaccinated by the end of January, but expressed doubts that this will take place by Sunday.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “Our hope is that the vaccine deployment continues apace and that it can be rolled out to all care homes, residents and staff, including care homes for younger adults with learning disabilities, as soon as possible.

“It seems unlikely that all care home residents will be vaccinated by Sunday, but we hope that the original deadline of the end of the month is comfortably met.

“Care homes continue to work as hard as possible to protect their vulnerable residents”.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and North Yorkshire, said about two thirds of members’ residents have been vaccinated.

He said he hopes the Sunday target will be met across England but this “seems unlikely”, with numbers “patchy” across the country.

He added: “We’re going in the right direction, it’s certainly speeded up over the last few days.

“I would praise the Clinical Commissioning Group for the work they’ve done to get us where we are.”

Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said at the beginning of this week there was significant frustration, with some members saying they felt like “sitting ducks with no communication”.

Covid-19 growth rates
(PA Graphics)

This has since subsided and concerns are more area-based, with anxieties remaining for members in areas such as Kent with high case rates.

She said: “We understand that over 70% of residents have now been vaccinated, so the trajectory is upwards, so we hope that the set target can be met within the 72 or so hours remaining.

“We know there is a concerted effort under way.”

Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare’s Covid-19 taskforce lead, Anna Selby, said about 85% of residents have been given a vaccine at the groups’ 46 care homes.

The remaining residents cannot have a jab either because they have tested positive for the virus within 28 days or because of pre-existing health conditions.

Just over half of staff have been vaccinated, she added.

Some of our vaccination centres are struggling with supply of the vaccine, availability is crucial to continue to grow that ring of protection around our residents

Anna Selby Sunrise Senior Living, Gracewell Healthcare

She said: “It’s important we keep working towards increasing those numbers.

“Some of our vaccination centres are struggling with supply of the vaccine, availability is crucial to continue to grow that ring of protection around our residents.”

Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes across the UK, said 77% of residents and 59% of staff have had at least one vaccine dose as of Friday.

A spokeswoman added: “This is dependent on vaccine rollout and the ability of a local area to deliver the vaccines rather than on the care homes.

“Figures are constantly changing but the latest is that approximately 6% of staff have not yet decided to have the vaccine.”

HC-One said 73% of residents and 48% of staff at its 328 UK care homes had been given a first dose as of Thursday evening.

Some 2% of residents and 5% of staff have declined a jab.

A spokeswoman for the NHS said: “Just a few weeks after the Oxford vaccine, which allows teams to more easily vaccinate in care homes, became available, more than two thirds of care home residents have already received their jab.

“Vaccinating care home residents is a priority for local GP-led vaccinating teams, who are on track to meet the Government’s goal of doing so by the end of this month.”

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