Care home bosses fear betrayal over Covid-19 jabs

Care home bosses fear betrayal over Covid-19 jabs: Just one in ten vulnerable residents has been given the vaccine despite Government pledge to get them inoculated quickly

  • Care providers say they have been ‘left in the dark’ and hit by outbreaks  
  • Matt Hancock promised care home residents would be vaccinated by Christmas 
  • A month on, Boris admitted just one in ten residents had received the vaccine 

Frail residents in the nation’s care homes have been betrayed by the slow rollout of the vaccine, it was claimed last night.

Care providers say they have been ‘left in the dark’ and hit by outbreaks while waiting for jabs.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised on December 10 that care home residents would be vaccinated by Christmas. 

A month on, Boris Johnson admitted just one in ten residents had received the vaccine. But the Mail spoke to 28 providers – which together run 556 homes with around 30,000 residents – and 17 said not a single resident had been vaccinated. 

Sick with worry: Alison Wright with her mother Monica Richardson

Managers described ‘haphazard and confusing’ communication, with eight claiming they have had no details of when to expect vaccines.

Worryingly, almost half – 13 – said they are currently battling coronavirus cases in their homes.

Jayne Connery, director of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: ‘Unsurprisingly, care home residents have been betrayed again.’ Eileen Chubb, director of Compassion in Care, added: ‘Promises have been broken again and again. It’s absolute chaos. Carers are off sick and care is suffering because of these mistakes.’

Resident Annie Innes, 90, receives a vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton, Scotland

Suspected and confirmed Covid outbreaks in care homes rose by 65 per cent in England in the week to January 3, compared with the week before, and 60 per cent across the UK, according to the latest data from Public Health England. Now the Mail can reveal:

  • Care home bosses claim they have been left ‘like sitting ducks’ with little or no communication about when they can expect vaccines;
  • Several homes have suffered their first Covid outbreak in the past few days – claiming it could have been avoided if had they been given jabs when they were promised;
  • The owner of a care home currently dealing with its first outbreak provided a list of all residents and staff requiring the vaccine to his GP three times – and has still heard nothing back;
  • Britain’s biggest care home providers say just one in five of their residents has received the jab. Yesterday, Mr Hancock said around two million people – including a third of the over 80s – had received the first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The daughter of a care home resident said she is ‘frustrated’ she has not been told when her mother will get her jab.

Bank worker Alison Wright, 57, said she just wants to visit her mother Monica Richardson, 87, who lives in a care home in Bradford but she has ‘heard nothing’ about when she can expect to be vaccinated. She added: ‘Not seeing her in September, October and November made me ill. I haven’t hugged her since March. I feel very let down.

‘It’s been a rollercoaster – the promise of testing, the promise of a vaccine. The vaccine is the only hope we’ve got.’

The Government is set to unveil its long-awaited vaccination plan today.

Guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation stated care home residents and staff should be the first priority group to receive the Covid vaccine. During the first peak more than 20,000 vulnerable care home residents died.

Campaigners said they had been put at risk by a policy of discharging patients into homes without Covid checks. Amid an outcry, care homes were given better access to testing to help isolate cases early, but this was also hit by delays.

Mr Johnson has promised every care home resident will be offered a Covid vaccine by the end of this month. But last night campaigners said the Government had failed care home residents once again.

David Steedman, who runs Arlington House care home in Hove, said his residents were left ‘like sitting ducks’ waiting for the vaccine.

Mr Steedman and his staff had managed to keep Covid out throughout the pandemic – but in the last week he, another staff member and one of his 24 residents tested positive. 

Although his staff were vaccinated on Tuesday, he still has no indication of when his residents can be given the jab. 

‘We were promised vaccines in December, then it was the start of January and now it might be the end of January and then we have to wait three weeks for protection. They need it now. Not in three weeks, a month’s time. Now.’

I just want to hug her  

Tracey Blazey is desperate to hug her 91-year-old mother again but has had no guidance on when she will be vaccinated.

Lilian Bradford, who suffers with dementia, is a resident at Mayflower Court in Norfolk. Mrs Blazey, 62, said: ‘She is in a home of 80 residents, I thought she would be a priority. I do feel let down. You get your hopes up and then nothing happens. You don’t know what to believe.’ She fears her mother’s health has deteriorated from a lack of family contact.

NorseCare, which runs Mayflower Court, said it hoped the home would get vaccines by the end of January.

Lilian Bradford, who suffers with dementia, is a resident at Mayflower Court in Norfolk

Also struggling with its first Covid outbreak is Harkham Lodge in East Sussex. 

The care home received a letter on December 4 from the Department of Health telling it to prepare residents for vaccinations the following week – but then heard nothing.

Five of the home’s 18 residents and six of the 22 staff are now infected – leaving it worryingly understaffed. Owner Peter Sims said the home was ‘existing on the knife-edge of a potential nightmare’. 

Raj Singh, who runs Altham Care in Lancashire, was also hit by his first positive cases last week – with two infections. 

‘We’ve been contacted for lists of staff and service users in preparation for the vaccine two or three times but then we’ve not heard anything,’ he said. ‘I feel so let down.’

Like several providers, Aylsham Manor in Norfolk has been given no guidance about when it can expect vaccines for staff or residents. 

Owner Carl Denis said: ‘I am worried. Worry, worry, worry all the time.’

It is not just smaller providers that are struggling to receive the vaccine. Barchester and Care UK, two of Britain’s biggest providers which run 322 homes between them, said last week that fewer than one in five residents have been vaccinated.

However, Barchester said jab numbers are ‘increasing every day’ and Care UK said figures ‘should rise significantly over the next week’.

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for social care, said: ‘After more than 20,000 deaths from Covid-19 in care homes, residents and staff must be the absolute priority for vaccination.’

The Department of Health said it was ‘doing everything we can to protect care homes’. ‘This survey started before the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which is now being given in care homes across the country – and by the end of the month, we aim to have offered every elderly care home resident a vaccine.’

Vaccination team delivers almost 350 Oxford jab doses to every single care home resident and worker in their area in just over two hours

Nigel Bunyan for MailOnline 

A team of medics achieved their target of vaccinating every single care home resident and member of staff in their catchment area with the Oxford jab yesterday.

It took just over two hours for the 16-strong team of doctors and nurses administered around 350 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for their network in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

The operation began with an early morning team meeting held in the Ribblesdale Covid-19 Vaccination Site within Clitheroe health centre.

Senior medics then took hold of the white cool bags assigned to them and loaded them into their cars, driving their precious cargo on icy roads to each of the ten care homes that fall within the boundaries of their primary care network.

Dr Russell Robb, the clinical director, set out in his red Golf GTI with his colleague, Dr Mike Doherty, each of them wearing a mask and with blue scrubs packed ready for use.

A team of 16 medics were able to hit targets and administer around 350 doses of Covid vaccine in the Ribblesdale Covid-19 Vaccination Site within Clitheroe health centre yesterday

Doctors set up their emergency vaccination centre in the medication room at Ribble Valley Care Home, Sawley. Pictured: Resident Marion Cooper smiles as she gets her Covid jab

Nearly five miles away they turned into the car park of Ribble Valley Care Home, Sawley, and set up their emergency vaccination centre in the medication room.

In normal times the two colleagues have particular responsibility for the home so they are used to making frequent visits to its riverside location.

Yesterday, at a time when the deadly effects of the pandemic are surging, they swiftly got to work, Dr Robb preparing the vaccines and his colleagues often joking with his elderly patients as he administered the vaccination.

Care assistant Julie Whitehead, 54, was the first to get the jab. She and a colleague had just finished the night shift but had waited specifically so they could have the vaccination.

‘Well, it didn’t hurt,’ said Julie, smiling behind her mask. ‘And it’s such a relief to know the residents are about to have it too.

‘They’ve not been able to go out for a year and their families have always had to see them from behind a screen.

‘But this means they’ll soon be able to see them close up and to hug them as normal. That’s what they need – that wonderful human contact’.

A few moments later the first of 19 residents was helped into the room and eased herself down onto a chair.

Residents at the care home smiled and appeared at ease as the medics administered their jabs, giving out almost 350 in just over two hours. Pictured: Resident Joan Fairy, 93, gets her jab

In normal times the Dr Russell Robb, the clinical director, and his colleague, Dr Mike Doherty have particular responsibility for the home so they are used to making frequent visits to its riverside location. Pictured: Resident Margaret Dawber gets her jab

‘Thank you, thank you,’ said Maureen Maynard, 75, as Hazel rolled up her sleeve and Dr Doherty momentarily distracted her as he leaned forward with the innocuous-looking needle.

‘All finished,’ he told the pensioner. ‘Well done, Maureen. Well done’.

Other residents either made their own way into the treatment room or else were wheeled in, some from their bedrooms.

Each then spent 15 minutes in the lounge so they could be watched over in case of a reaction. But none of them suffered one.

Some were fully aware of what the vaccine was for and knew the significance. For others, staff gently explained. 

‘You’ll be fine, Lily,’ Hazel told one old lady. ‘It protects you from this virus that’s going around’.

Senior medics loaded the white cool bags into their cars and drove them to each of the ten care homes that fall within the boundaries of their primary care network. Pictured: Resident Marion Cooper gets her jab

Dr Robb prepared the vaccines and his colleagues joked with his elderly patients as he administered the jab. Pictured: Resident Patricia Goddard gets her jab

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Alan Krane, 77, who had kept his flat cap on and didn’t even notice when the needle entered the top of his arm. 

When told he’d been vaccinated against Covid-19, he beamed up at Dr Doherty. ‘You’re a good ‘un,’ doctor. Thank you’.

The two GPs were waved away from the care home as heroes, setting off a few minutes later to help colleagues at another location.

Both were delighted with their morning’s work.

‘It’s been wonderful,’ said Dr Doherty, 53. ‘This is one of my homes, so I’ve been looking after them all through the pandemic.

‘To come here today and give them the vaccination is great because it lets them see there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the first people to be given the jab during the impressive vaccination roll out was care assistant 54-year-old Julie Whitehead. Pictured: Care home resident Marion Cooper gets her jab

Senior carer Hazel (pictured) rolled up resident Maureen Maynard’s sleeve and Dr Doherty momentarily distracted her as he leaned forward with the innocuous-looking needle

‘You’ll have seen glimpses of their personalities, and to be honest you’d actually be gobsmacked about some of the lives these people have lived.

‘They may be struggling either physically or even mentally, but they’re still real people; they’re still human beings’.

Dr Robb, 38, whose primary care network covers Clitheroe, Whalley and the villages around Slaidburn, was delighted to have been able to ‘blitz’ the entire care home network in a single day.

‘In some areas there’s not been even a whiff of a vaccine, so to have got through this whole cohort of care homes in the Ribble Valley is fantastic’.

His team had set out with four boxes of ten vials each, making a total of 400 doses.

But because the vials are filled by machines, and usually contain an extra 10 per cent of the vaccine, there is a ‘magic’ 11th dose in each of them.

Dr Robb, 38 said he was delighted to have been able to ‘blitz’ the entire care home network in a single day. Pictured: Resident Lily Perrin gets her Covid-19 vaccination

Staff at Clitheroe Health Centre in Clitheroe, Lancashire, pack and prepare the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines 

‘As doctors and nurses we have a huge passion to help. So to be able to come out and achieve this makes us feel really grateful and really humble, because now we know there’s going to be an element of protection for all these residents.

‘The mass vaccination sites will be fantastic, but being able to deliver this to our community through PCN locations so very quickly and efficiently is advantageous. As ever, it’s dependent on getting enough vaccine through the door’.

For his colleague, the exercise has emphasised the bond between doctor and patient.

‘In this new world the old-fashioned doctor/patient relationship has been eroded, but this is a perfect example of why as family doctors we need to maintain that trust and communication with our patients.

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