Managers fear care staff exodus over mandatory vaccination and workforce crisis

Managers fear an “exodus” of social care staff by the autumn due to opposition to mandatory vaccination, Covid burnout and a staffing crisis which is already compromising safe care.

Senior care staff say they are “genuinely concerned about the safety and sustainability of services” amid ongoing staffing shortages, extreme difficulty in recruiting and exhaustion.

The Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM) surveyed more than 1,000 care managers in partnership with the PA news agency.

The full survey, which closed on Wednesday evening, found that nine in 10 managers said their workplace is experiencing staff shortages or difficulty recruiting, with almost half (49.3%) saying these issues are compromising safety and care.

Almost four in 10 managers (39.3%) say they are considering leaving their role, with a further fifth unsure.

It also found that a third (32.8%) of managers have already had staff quit or hand in their notice over the requirement to get a coronavirus vaccine.

And more than half (55.2%) of managers fear they will have to dismiss staff over the coming months because they have not been vaccinated against coronavirus.

Around a third expect to lose up to 5% of their workforce, while 24.1% estimate between 10 and 20% of staff will no longer be able to work.

And 32 managers (3.2%) said they fear they will lose more than 20% of their staff.

The Government has said that, from November 11, all staff in registered care homes in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they are to continue working, unless they are medically exempt.

The Outstanding Manager network, which represents around 5,700 managers of UK social care services, the majority in England, believes the sector’s recruitment crisis will be made “significantly worse” by mandatory vaccination.

The network says its workforce is exhausted and highly stressed, and that the group is seeing managers “leaving the sector in large numbers”.

Those who have handed in their notice cited stress, depression and “sleepless nights”.

Jane Brightman, co-founder of the network and IHSCM director of social care, told PA that care providers are bracing for a tough winter on top of an “incredibly bad” recruitment crisis.

She said: “I just think if I were that manager, I would probably be thinking ‘it’s more than my mental health can take’.

“So we’re going to see a mass exodus of staff not wanting a vaccine. We’re already seeing an exodus of good, strong managers who we need in the system.

“We will then end up with inexperienced managers being promoted, so we will have a lot of inexperienced people running services that are not staffed adequately.

“It just doesn’t feel safe, it doesn’t feel right, and we’re letting down those people that we’re there to support.”

The IHSCM survey also asked for managers to anonymously provide comments about their experiences, which have been shared with PA.

One respondent said: “Social care is in crisis. Staff are exhausted, overwhelmed and at breaking point.”

Another said: “Titanic is sinking and there is no lifeboats or a working system to do a S.O.S call”.

A manager, who described the past 18 months as “absolute hell”, is leaving their role at the end of August after 10 years in the sector because they can no longer cope with the constant pressure.

One manager said the experience “can feel like drowning at times”, adding “the thought of having to possibly let quality, dedicated staff go because they don’t want to have something injected into their bodies is devastating”.

Another simply wrote: “Crisis in motion, slow train crash.”

The Government has been approached for comment.