Hartlepool care home manager retires early after choosing not to take jab

A Hartlepool care home manager has been forced to retire early as the government's 'No Jab, No Job' policy comes into effect.

As of Thursday 11 November, it is compulsory for health workers and care home staff to have had two coronavirus vaccine doses.

Those who refuse to get the vaccine will lose their jobs unless they meet one of four exemption criteria:

1. They are receiving end of life care

2. They have a learning disability, like autism

3. They have had an allergic reaction to any currently available vaccine

4. They have had an adverse reaction to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It is thought the policy will see tens of thousands of people lose their jobs.

Just four days prior to the plan coming into effect, 50,000 care home staff had not been recorded as having received both doses, but health officials expect the number to have fallen before the deadline.

It is unclear how many staff have already quit due to the requirement.

Jo Orley, owner and manager of a Hartlepool care home, is among them.

She has been forced into early retirement after refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine due to her 'health anxiety' - a condition she developed as a child and worsened when she had an adverse reaction to a drug administered in hospital.

Jo says her application for exemption was denied.

Jo says she is not an 'anti-vaxxer'. She has urged her staff to take the vaccine and says she wishes she was able to do so herself.

The move comes as care homes face unprecedented staffing shortages, with some quitting in advance due to the requirement and others expected to have worked their last days this week.

Recruitment and retention is also a struggle as industries such as hospitality and retail, which can offer better pay and hours, prove more popular.

The Government has allocated £162.5 million to help with workforce issues, and last week launched a national recruitment campaign to fill more than 100,000 social care vacancies.

Care groups have said the shortages mean some homes are unable to accept hospital patients ready for discharge, while burnout is on the cards for staff who are being put under increased pressure as winter nears.

The National Care Association said the vaccine was a key part of controlling the virus but the unintended consequence of the mandatory policy would be "no staff, no care".

Executive chairwoman Nadra Ahmed said: "Taking away our ability to retain experienced staff during the critical winter period shows a lack of understanding about the value of social care for those who access our services.

Another membership group, the National Care Forum (NCF), estimate on average 3.5% of their staff had already resigned or been dismissed, and estimated a further 4.4% might have to leave this week - a loss the NCF said the sector could "ill afford".

One respondent said comforting residents who were upset at seeing long-term staff leave was the "worst thing" they had had to do in a 22-year career.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was its "responsibility to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people".

A spokesperson added: "We consulted and worked closely with the sector to encourage take-up of the vaccine ahead of the deadline.

"Since the consultation was announced, uptake of the first dose amongst care home staff has risen from 80% to 94%.

"We are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high-quality care."