One of the UK’s largest care home groups has said it will not hire new staff who have refused to have a coronavirus vaccine on non-medical grounds.
Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes, said it was adopting the new policy because of the vulnerability of its residents.
Chief Executive Dr Pete Calveley told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme that “it is our duty to do everything in our power to protect our residents and staff”.
He said: “Based on previous studies of other vaccines it’s likely that this vaccine will impact transmission and experts have outlined that this is a strong possibility.
“So we are being responsible in the care of our residents and patients in taking action now, just as we took action early in the pandemic on visiting and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We want to be ahead of the curve in protecting and delivering the best quality care.’
As of January 28, 87% of residents and 68% of staff at the group had received at least one vaccine dose.
Around 6% of staff have not yet decided to have the vaccine.
Dr Calveley said the group is “strongly encouraging” existing staff to have the vaccine and holding briefings and individual chats for employees with questions.
He continued: “We are constantly reviewing uptake and considering our position for existing staff.
“Overall we are delighted so many are getting vaccinated. It reflects the duty of care we all feel towards our residents and patients.”
HC-One, which has 328 homes across the UK, said 55.7% of its staff had been offered a vaccine as of January 27, and 5.72% have declined a jab.
A spokesman said many colleagues who previously declined the jab when offered it are now changing their minds when they see others in the home vaccinated.
He added: “We are confident that by continuing to provide colleagues with the factual information, reassurance and encouragement they need, we can increase the uptake rate further.
“This is our current priority and focus, and once the vaccine programme has been completed we will consider whether a formal vaccine policy is required.
“Any future policy will need to carefully balance personal freedoms, and colleague and candidate medical privacy, with the need to prioritise resident safety.
“This is a conversation we’ll seek to have with our colleagues, Trade Union partner, and peers in the sector.”