Care homes must remain priority as vaccine rollout expands, Government told

PA

The Government has been urged to ensure care homes remain a priority for local health teams as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out more widely to vulnerable groups.

NHS England has told GPs that it “expects” care home residents and staff at homes across England to be vaccinated by January 24 “at the latest”.

According to the Prime Minister, half of elderly residents have received a vaccine.

On Monday, the Government announced it will roll out the vaccine to the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable this week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this does not mean its commitment to other priority groups is wavering, and that it is the Government’s “utmost priority” to reach the rest of these groups in the coming weeks.

The National Care Forum said focus should remain on getting vaccines to those who will see the most impact first.

Executive director Vic Rayner said: “Vaccination across all homes must remain the priority for local health and care systems.

“We must keep our eye on the main prize, which is to get those who will benefit most from the vaccination inoculated first.

“This is not a numbers game. Whilst big numbers of getting increased jabs to the wider population make the headlines, what really counts is the impact that each individual jab will make.

“The clock is ticking to achieve the January 24 deadline and we need everyone across the local care and health system to pull out all the stops to be both ready to deliver and ready to receive.”

One large UK care home provider, which asked to remain anonymous, said it is not possible to say whether the Government is on track as numbers have fluctuated each week.

It said 72% of residents and 51% of staff have received at least one dose of the two approved vaccines.

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

A further 15% of residents and 13% of staff are scheduled to receive a vaccine, but this may not necessarily take place this week.

Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes, said almost two-thirds of residents and just under half of staff have had at least one dose.

A spokeswoman said: “As of Tuesday January 19, 64% of our residents and 44% of staff have now had at least the first part of the Covid-19 vaccine and the numbers are continuing to increase every day as the ramp-up of the programme develops.

“This is dependent on the ability of a local area to deliver the vaccines rather than on the care homes.”

Care UK, which runs 125 homes, said 43% of residents and more than 30% of staff have received a vaccination as of Monday.

MHA, the UK’s largest charitable care provider, said around two-thirds of its 90 care homes have been visited by local teams rolling out the vaccines, with other homes booked in to receive jabs this week.

Eleven of its care homes have not yet been contacted.

MHA did not provide figures on how many residents or staff have been vaccinated but said it is hopeful that the majority of vaccinations will be completed by January 24.

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