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Up to a fifth of staff in some care home groups have refused a coronavirus vaccine when offered, with suggestions that younger workers are more likely to be resistant.
The majority of care home staff who have been offered the jab are getting vaccinated but data obtained by the Press Association from a number of providers shows between five per cent and 21% of staff offered a vaccine have declined it.
The Prime Minister has called on everyone to get the jab when it is their turn and care providers say it is vital that staff and residents get the vaccine as soon as possible.
There is currently no regular data from the NHS or Government on how many residents and staff have been given the vaccine, and how many have refused a jab.
Care groups have been calling for daily figures so they can check if the Government is on track to have offered vaccines to all residents by January 24 and address any take-up issues.
Boris Johnson said on Friday that almost 40% of elderly residents have been vaccinated.
One large UK care home group, which asked to remain anonymous, said more than half of residents and 36.8% of staff have had at least one dose as of January 14.
However, 21% of staff and 2.7% of residents offered the vaccine had chosen not to take it up.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Frontline health and care staff are quite rightly considered a priority for vaccination because they are at high risk of contracting the virus.
“Getting vaccinated will help protect themselves, their colleagues and their patients.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is our most important tool in protecting people from the virus, and helping to get life back to normal.
“Both vaccines that we’re currently using in the UK have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and effective – as such, we’d urge anyone who is offered a jab to have one.”
Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association (NCA), said there has been a reduction in refusals following a strong push from providers to address fears and anxieties.
She said information from members and other industry bodies suggests around 6%-8% of care staff still remain nervous or resistant due to health and cultural reasons, down from 18%-20% at the start of the rollout.
Many are now being persuaded as they see colleagues get the jab, she added.
The NCA is seeking legal advice on whether care workers could be forced to take the jab.
As of January 14, 47% of residents and 37% of staff in the 200+ homes run by Barchester Healthcare had been given at least one dose of one of the approved vaccines.
It is understood that 5% of staff offered a jab have refused it.
A spokesman said: “It is vital to the safety of our residents and patients that all of our staff, residents and patients should have the Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible.
“We are playing our part in the national fight against Covid-19 and we feel that we must do whatever we can to protect our residents and patients, as reflected in the Barchester purpose and values.”
The figure for staff refusals at Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare’s 46 care homes is around 8% of those offered, and just 1% for residents, with more than half of residents now vaccinated.
Anna Selby, head of the group’s Covid-19 taskforce, said those refusing the vaccine tend to be younger staff and there appears to be a “feeling of invincibility”.
She said: “I think it could go two ways: either we will start to see this rise because all those who wanted it have taken the slots and all those who don’t want it will start refusing, because they can’t refuse something they haven’t been offered, although they can say they are going to, which is worrying… but I don’t know if what people say now is actually a true reflection of what they’ll actually do when the time comes for them to get it.
“The other thing that could happen is more and more people are being vaccinated and talking about their lives opening up again, and people will feel a bit silly for not wanting it and they’ll jump aboard.”
Care England said feedback from its members about take-up rates has been positive overall.
Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “We are working to make it as easy as possible for staff to be vaccinated. So far, we understand that the uptake has been good.
“We would like real-time data from the NHS broken down by residents and staff so we can get a handle on whether this is a widespread problem.”
One large care provider group said they had seen “strong” take-up while another said it did not collect take-up data centrally but that individual homes were keeping track.
Mike Padgham, who runs four care homes in North Yorkshire, said all but a handful of his 160 staff have received a vaccine.
Some 14 staff members have refused it, with three since changing their minds.
PA has asked the NHS about whether it is concerned about uptake figures that are emerging and how they compare to uptake of the flu vaccine.
An NHS spokeswoman said: “Thanks to the dedication of NHS staff, tens of thousands of care home residents and staff have already been vaccinated with the NHS working hard to vaccinate as many people from these top priority groups as quickly as possible.”
Minister for care Helen Whately said: “We are immensely grateful for the unwavering compassion of those working in care homes, caring for older adults who are most vulnerable to Covid-19, who are rightly being offered vaccines now.
“We have provided over a billion pounds of additional funding to support social care during this pandemic – as well as free PPE, regular testing and prioritising the vaccination rollout to care home residents and staff.
“Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and we encourage those who have been offered a vaccination to book their appointment as soon as possible.”
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Paramedics have reached “breaking point” as patients are dying before they can respond to 999 calls due to overwhelming numbers of Covid cases in hospital, a study suggests.
Three out of four emergency service workers are struggling to cope and have asked for improved PPE, with many turning up for shifts terrified, according to the GMB union.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said the “system is collapsing” in straits far worse than the first lockdown last March.
The troubling study comes after the head of the NHS revealed today that hospitals across England are taking on a new Covid patient every 30 seconds.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said he could not “sugar-coat” the scale of the crisis on wards and in intensive care.
Responses from paramedics and other emergency workers to the GMB survey include:
- “People are dying waiting for ambulances whilst crews are stuck at hospital with Covid-confirmed patients.”
- “We had a taxi pull up in an ambulance bay with a dead male while his wife was shouting for help.
- “It’s very scary for us all.”
“In 24 years in the ambulance service I’ve never ever seen staff sat on station at the start of the shift so frightened (almost to tears) to go out on an ambulance.”
“Staff overwhelmed – calls waiting are in their hundreds for hours on end with little or no resources to send.”
Ms Harrison said: “This cannot go on – something has got to give.
“Ambulance staff are going off sick in droves while the service collapses around them, despite their heroic efforts.
“A massive 93% are crying out for better protection, the PPE they are given just isn’t fit for purpose, and is a massive factor in why the situation is so desperate.
“Ambulance PPE needs addressing urgently or more people will die unnecessarily, including our ambulance workers.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The safety of NHS and social care staff including paramedics has always been our top priority and we continue to work round the clock to deliver PPE that helps protect those on the front line.
“Guidance on the safest levels and standards of PPE is written by experts and agreed by all four UK chief medical officers.
“Our guidance is kept under constant review based on the latest evidence.”
The Covid-19 infection rate in Kent has hit its lowest level for almost a month.
Latest figures published today reveal weekly cases have fallen by 29% as people across the county continue to observe a third national lockdown.
Reassuringly, rates are dropping in all of Kent’s 12 districts and boroughs, as well as in Medway, where public health statistics are recorded separately.
The biggest decrease has been seen in Swale, which at one point was seen as the Covid capital of the UK.
Cases there have dropped 44% in a week.
It leaves Kent with a rate of 561 cases per 100,000 people – 29% down on the week and against a pandemic high of 869 on January 4.
Not since December 13 has it been as low.
The rate for England has also fallen to 538, bolstering hopes the national lockdown will not be extended beyond its widely-predicted March end date.
Earlier today, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said people in the country are being vaccinated four times faster than new cases of the virus are being detected.
He told the Andrew Marr Show some hospitals would open for vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on a trial basis in the next 10 days.
But he also warned of the current “extreme pressure” on the NHS, describing the pandemic as “unique event” in its 72-year history.
He said patient numbers nationally had risen by 15,000 since Christmas.
In Kent, there were 1,247 hospital beds occupied by a Covid-19 patient on January 12 – 10% down on the week before.
A luxury private jet has flown into Hawarden Airport from the Caribbean hours before tight new rules come into force.
The Dassault Falcon 2000 jet landed at the Flintshire airport just after 5.30pm on Sunday following a journey from the island of Antigua.
It makes the flight one of the last to arrive in Wales before tough new restrictions on international travel come into force in Wales.
From 4am on Monday, inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train from countries outside the Common Travel Area will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in.
The Welsh Government introduced the new rules in a bid to protect the country from new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Brazil, Denmark and South Africa.
They said pre-departure testing will provide an additional layer of safety from imported cases of coronavirus on top of the mandatory 10 day quarantine for arrivals.
From Monday, travel corridors will also be suspended until at least February 15.
The changes will mean most people travelling abroad will need to complete a pre-departure test and quarantine for 10 days on their return home to Wales.
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First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Unfortunately, we have seen some worrying new strains of coronavirus appear around the world and need to take extra steps to protect people in Wales and the rest of the UK from these new forms of the virus.
“Suspending travel corridors means that most people who are travelling overseas will now have to complete a pre-departure test and quarantine when they return to Wales to make sure they are not bringing coronavirus home with them.”
When asked on Friday why a decision to bring in such rules had not been made sooner, Mr Drakeford said: “I think the first thing to say is we are doing it because we are part of a UK-wide move to do this.
“We don’t have responsibility in the Welsh Government for foreign affairs and for border security.
“It wouldn’t be possible for us easily to do this entirely on our own.
“All four nations of the UK have acted always together on this matter because so much of what you need to make it effective is in the hands of the UK Government with their responsibilities.”
He added: “We have announced it now rather than a week or so ago because there are actually no flights into Wales at the moment that would be affected by this decision and nobody who comes into our ports from Ireland are effected by it in any case because this doesn’t apply to people in what is called the Common Travel Area.
“The first flights we’re expecting into Cardiff Airport will be at the start of next month so we are putting everything in its place so when that happens then everybody coming into Wales will have had to have a pre-departure test.
“But there’s no delay, because we haven’t had anybody coming in in that way in recent weeks.”
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THE coronavirus death toll at Herefordshire’s hospitals has risen again, with another patient confirmed to have died.
The latest figures from NHS England show 130 people had died in hospital at Wye Valley NHS Trust as of 4pm on Saturday (January 16).
That was an increase of one compared the figures from the previous day, when there were 129.
The death reported on Sunday happened on January 13, with a slight lag possible in the reporting of deaths by NHS England.
It means there have been 11 deaths in the seven days to January 16, but there can be a delay in deaths being reported.
That figure was slightly down on the week before, when 14 patients died after a positive coronavirus test result.
Across all hospitals in England, 631 more deaths were confirmed on Sunday, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 60,921
Daily death counts are revised each day, with each case backdated to the actual date of death.
This means some of the deaths that were first recorded in the latest period may actually have taken place days earlier.
NHS England guidance states: “Confirmation of Covid-19 diagnosis, death notification and reporting in central figures can take up to several days and the hospitals providing the data are under significant operational pressure.”
Only deaths that occur in hospitals where the patient has tested positive for Covid-19 are recorded, with deaths in the community excluded, such as those in care homes.
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said coronavirus restrictions will not disappear in one “big bang” but England could instead return to a tiered system.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The aim is by the middle of February to have 88% of those most at risk of dying of coronavirus with their first jab, and by the early spring to have 99% – so that is the milestone if you like.
“I think it is true to say that when we get to a situation in the early spring, perhaps March, if we succeed in hitting those targets – we have made good process so far – we can start to think about the phased transition out of the national lockdown.
“I think it is fair to say it won’t be a big bang, if you like, it will be done phased, possibly back through the tiered approach that we had before.”
He also said he was “not aware” of a delay to vaccine deliveries “beyond the flexibility” built into the rollout programme.
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A number of new coronavirus variants have been found across the globe, including in the UK, South Africa and now Brazil.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he would find it “unusual” if the second of two new variants from Brazil were not already present.
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The variant has been detected in Manaus, Brazil, and travellers arriving in Japan.
The news comes after the Government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde on Thursday in response to the emergence of the new variant, having previously banned travel from South Africa because of another Covid strain.
All quarantine-free travel into the UK will be suspended on Monday in a bid to keep out other potential variants.
The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after entering the UK.
Professor Edmunds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.
“For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported the Manaus strain cases, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.
“We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.”
Labour responded by accusing the Government of “closing the door after the horse has bolted”, saying the announcement was too late to have stopped the arrival of “worrying” strains.
Will the vaccine protect against the new strains of the virus?
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said there would be lots of new coronavirus variants this year but stressed the current vaccines should protect against the strains circulating in the UK.
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He said that new variants were being detected early, and emphasised: “If indeed we do need to make new vaccines, we will be able to stand those up really quickly.”
More than 3.5 million people have now received the first dose of a Covid vaccine in the UK.
The Government has set a target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK by mid-February.
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A further 830 new Covid cases have been recorded in Lancashire in the past 24 hours.
In the most recent figures released by Public Health England, each of Lancashire’s districts has recorded an increase in coronavirus cases.
The highest rise was once again seen in Blackburn with Darwen, which recorded 108 new cases.
Lancaster and Preston, which recorded more than 100 cases each yesterday (Saturday January 16), have both seen decreases, reporting 85 and 81 new positive tests respectively.
Again, the lowest jump was in Fylde, which has seen an increase of 25 new positive tests in the 24-hour period. This is lower than its increase of 41 cases yesterday.
Here are the new figures for each district:
Number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus by Lancashire borough as of Sunday, January 17
The data below includes the total number of cases and overall infection rate for each area since the pandemic began. Many of these cases will no longer be active.
- Blackburn with Darwen: 14,309 (+108), 9,558.7per 100,000
- Blackpool: 7,335 (+45), 5,260.1 per 100,000
- Burnley: 8,198 (+78), 9,219.5 per 100,000
- Chorley: 5,895 (+57), 4,986.6 per 100,000
- Fylde: 3,548 (+25), 4,392.2per 100,000
- Hyndburn: 6,108 (+56), 7,536.7 per 100,000
- Lancaster: 7,007 (+85), 4,798.1 per 100,000
- Pendle: 7,909 (+65), 8,586.3 per 100,000
- Preston: 10,228 (+81), 7,145.7 per 100,000
- Ribble Valley: 3,590 (+27), 5,896.1 per 100,000
- Rossendale: 4,928 (+43), 6,894 per 100,000
- South Ribble: 5,799 (+55), 5,234.3 per 100,000
- West Lancashire: 6,932 (+70) 6,064.4 per 100,000
- Wyre: 5,231 (+35), 4,666.7 per 100,000
The cases come as a further 631 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England on Sunday.
Patients were aged between 29 and 103. All except 31, aged between 46 and 93, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between November 5 and January 16.
There were 36 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
In Lancashire, there were eight further Covid deaths reported across three trusts.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals reported four further deaths. East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust saw a further death and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust recorded three further deaths.
Also today, Accrington Victoria Hospital was closed temporarily amid ‘high demand’ on local NHS services.
Hyndburn Council released a statement this afternoon (January 17), stating that the community hospital closure will be reviewed on a ‘monthly basis’.
The facility will be closed as hospital admissions ‘continue to rise’ in East Lancashire and people are being urged to call 111 before attending any minor injuries unit or emergency department.
Staff will be redeployed to other services.
Coun Miles Parkinson OBE, Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council said: “To help our local NHS services during this difficult time people are being asked to call 111 for advice before going in person to any minor injuries unit or emergency department.
“This will mean you can be directed to the best service for your concern. People should still seek medical advice and of course call 999 if there is an emergency.
“As hospital admissions continue to rise in East Lancashire it is vital we all stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to leave.
“Following the basic rules is key in preventing spread. Wash your hands frequently, wear a face covering when in public spaces if you can and keep your distance from anyone not in your household or bubble. The more we do this the more deaths we can prevent.”