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Care Home Workers to be Fully Vaccinated

Care Home Workers to be Fully Vaccinated

Vaccines have appeared as a beacon of hope for millions of people at the highest risk of COVID-19 complications – and nowhere have they been more welcome than in the health and care sectors!

As we write, the latest stats show that:

  • Everybody in priority groups 1-9 has been offered a vaccination.
  • Across England, 91.3% of care home residents have had two doses.
  • 1% of care home workers have had one jab, and 70.2% both.

However, we can’t forget that some people can’t have the vaccine, and others have elected not to, for a wide range of social, cultural, medical or personal reasons.

New government legislation means from October, all staff in any CQC-registered care facility must have a mandatory two doses, although those with medical exemption are not included.

Let’s explore what this means and the impact of compulsory vaccination programmes on the British care sector.

The New Vaccine Rules for Social Care Professionals

While Parliament hasn’t yet approved the legislation, it seems very likely the vaccine rules will become law from October 2021.

In short, they mean that:

  • Staff providing personal or nursing support in a care home must have had two COVID-19 vaccinations (of any kind).
  • All workers employed by a care home or care agency are included, plus volunteers in a care home setting.
  • Healthcare workers who attend care homes and other contractors (such as hairdressers or tradespeople) must also be fully vaccinated.
  • Workers with a medical exemption are omitted and will not be required to have the vaccine if they have a condition that prevents this.

There will be a 16-week grace period, so any care home workers who haven’t yet received both vaccines will have time to book themselves in.

As we all know, elderly and vulnerable patients are at a substantially higher risk of becoming severely ill with the Coronavirus.

The majority of care home residents fall into a priority group, with over 90% now fully vaccinated.

Care professionals have been able to book their vaccines from early on in the rollout, although these new rules make it a legal obligation to do so, applying to around 15% of care staff who haven’t yet received any vaccine dose.

Protecting Care Home Residents Through Staff Vaccinations

The compulsory vaccines will go some way to protecting those patients who are at such significant risk.

But, what happens to valued care home staff that refuse?

As it stands, they may find themselves unable to work or being redeployed away from front-line care to a position that doesn’t involve any patient interaction.

However, the former seems more likely, since the legislation includes all ancillary staff in a care home – including administrative, housekeeping or maintenance roles.

The debate rumbles on since compulsory vaccines are a good thing in terms of patient safeguarding. Still, they may cause significant issues for care homes that already struggle to recruit and retain outstanding staff.

Several organisations have voiced concerns:

  • The British Medical Association says that compulsory vaccine laws are a ‘blunt instrument’, which ‘carries its own risks’.
  • The Chairman of the Independent Care Group, based in Yorkshire, states that they are ‘disappointed’ and foresee the potential for legal disputes.
  • Unison’s General Secretary calls for encouragement, not legislation, calling the announcement the ‘government’s sledgehammer approach’.

Critics advocate for a gentler process, explaining the benefits of vaccination and easing concerns that mean some care home staff feel reluctant to take up the vaccine offered.

Given the public nature of the announcements, we don’t imagine a U-turn ahead, despite some objections to forcing social care staff to be vaccinated, even if against their wishes.

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The Future of Mandatory Vaccinations

As yet, the legislation impacts only care homes, and so there aren’t any specific indications that the government will roll out compulsory vaccine laws elsewhere.

There are, though, some signs that this could be set to change in the future.

The Department of Health and Social Care says that it will launch an extended consultation to evaluate whether vaccine laws will apply to other social care settings and healthcare facilities.

Consultation responses have highlighted the feelings of disparity in care home workers being ‘singled out’, so this extension seems to arise from those concerns.

In the future, there are hints that COVID-19 vaccinations and winter flu jabs will be a condition of employment in a care or healthcare setting.

However, we’ve yet to see any information about how this would be regulated.

For the time being, the Public Health England data on vaccine effectiveness shows that jabs have prevented 14,000 fatalities and 42,000 hospital admissions in older people, based on statistics in England up to 30th May 2021.

Insisting on care home staff vaccinations may mean that the remaining 52,000 care home staff who haven’t been vaccinated and are eligible could further protect vulnerable patients.

 

Vaccination Support for Care Home Workers

Here at OUTT, we acknowledge the compelling power of the vaccination programme to eliminate the highest risks of COVID-19 and help make UK care homes safer places for all.

However, we also recognise that some care home professionals may have concerns about how the mandatory vaccine rules will affect their careers and future employment prospects.

If you would like further information about the vaccines available, there are several resources out there:

  • The World Health Organization advice page includes details about how the vaccines work and the safety analysis criteria for each type of vaccine being offered.
  • You can download a FAQs document from the NHS England site explaining everything from side effects to ingredients.
  • Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed list of medical conditions that impact your eligibility for vaccination.

For care home workers who are keen to get booked in well in advance of the new rules, you can book online through the NHS Booking page, which confirms that all social care workers are eligible.

Please get in touch with the OUTT team if you would like to chat about current care home vacancies, other roles in the social care sector, or any information contained in this article.

 

Book Your Coronavirus Vaccine

Book Your Coronavirus Vaccine

As the vaccination programmes roll out across the UK, it’s essential for all social care staff, in any role or position, to ensure they take up their frontline entitlement to receive a jab.

There are still millions of fantastic care workers working tirelessly in the community to support the most vulnerable, who have yet to protect themselves.

The programme’s scale has inevitably meant that GP services have missed out some social care staff who might be working right on the frontline.

In some cases, that may be because agency care workers and non-clinical staff, might not be flagged on databases as a frontline worker.

Yet, these critical employees have just as urgent a need to be vaccinated given the higher-risk workplace and the potential risk to vulnerable residents or patients.

OUTT would like to remind all of our brilliant candidates and applicants that they are first in line for a vaccine and should go right ahead and make an appointment at their earliest convenience!

Vaccine Eligibility – The Rollout Process for Care Workers

There has understandably been some confusion since the government guidelines advise to wait to be contacted before coming forward for vaccination.

This isn’t a case of any candidates or groups being overlooked, but more the unprecedented breadth of the task. With 28 million people now vaccinated (mar21), it’s a triumph for the NHS and yet a massive test on GPs and other primary care providers!

NHS guidance confirms that the following groups are immediately eligible for vaccination:

  • Carers who are the primary carer for a high-risk person.
  • Workers in care homes.
  • Frontline health workers – including clinical and non-clinical roles.
  • Frontline social care workers, including registered professionals, residential care workers and outreach staff working with patients in their homes.

All of these groups can book a vaccination slot at their nearest centre through a local pharmacy offering jabs or other NHS services in your local area.

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How To Book a Care Worker COVID-19 Vaccination

If you fall into any of these groups and need to book yourself an appointment, you can:

  • Visit the NHS online booking system.
  • Select your nearest vaccination centre – that might be at a pop-up venue such as a community hall, at a local hospital, through a clinic, or at a pharmacy.
  • Choose from the dates and times available.

Note that you can book both vaccinations simultaneously and be allocated an appointment for your second dose, usually within 11-12 weeks.

Your appointment is confirmed by text message or email, and you can take this with you to evidence your booking.

Should you not have online access or have any problems with the service, you can call NHS England via 119, and they will make the booking for you. This phone service is available between 7 am and 11 pm, every day of the week.

You can also contact your GP practise if you can’t find any suitable vaccination appointments, and they may be able to assist.

Please don’t delay, and ensure you take up the opportunity to safeguard your health and that of your patients just as soon as possible!

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Government Guidelines for Social Care Workers this Winter

Government Guidelines for Social Care Workers this Winter

While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across the nation, the effect on our care sector has been profound. Social care workers may be first in line for vaccinations as front line key workers, but there is still a vital need to protect employees and contingent workers, and halt the virus’s spread.

Workforce managers in care homes and social care organisations have a challenge in the year ahead with the IR35 reforms, and resultant changes to managing agency staff. Still, there is no doubt that having skilled professionals on hand to cover for specialist needs, holiday cover, and urgent shifts will always be in high demand!

The government has created a policy paper called the ‘COVID-19 Winter Plan 2020 to 2021’. This document looks at staff planning, safety guidelines and best practise to keep social care workers and the people they care for, safe.

Let’s run through the key information you need to know to be prepared for these recommendations, which are likely to become hard and fast rules!

Managing Care Home Agency Staff According to New UK Guidance

So, the primary takeaway is that employers should try to avoid moving staff between different care home facilities as far as they can.

Vulnerable residents are far more susceptible to serious illness as a result of the virus. This guideline is intended to limit how staff move between different social care settings, to have consistency within the workforce. Therefore, if an outbreak does occur, it will be more limited to within a smaller number of settings, rather than being exposed to multiple organisations.

As a social care manager, reliant on agency staff to plug those all-important workforce gaps, this presents a bit of a puzzle!

  • IR35 nurses may fall into the new off-payroll working classification. Social care employers will likely be reluctant to commit to fixed, regular hours for the same agency nurses for fear of inadvertently breaching the new employment rules.
  • Agency staffing needs are often urgent and with very little notice, for example, if a team member becomes ill, and a shift needs covering immediately.
  • Requirements vary – if a resident requires a specific treatment or level of care, a contingency professional might be a far more affordable option than employing regular staff with a particular skill set.

The only way to comply with the new winter working guidelines and balance your staffing needs against your budgets is to plan as effectively as possible.

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Balancing a Care Home Staffing Strategy with Pandemic Safety in Mind

While the recommendations are to secure agency workers exclusively for your care home, OUTT recognises that this guidance conflicts the IR35 rules. It is essential to work with a fully IR35 compliant agency who offers full PAYE employment benefits to every registered social care professional!

The advice is to:

  • Work on forecasting to predict required agency staff, in which roles, for how many shifts, and for how long.
  • Look ahead for at least a few months. The guidelines currently cover ‘winter’ very broadly, but as we can’t know when the pandemic restrictions will be safe to lift, it’s best to build in a contingency.
  • Pre-book agency staff as required, and try to coordinate teams so that the same care home professionals work together on the same shifts.

Appointing agency staff for fixed shift patterns, permanent work, or a long-term shift rota could cause issues if that worker falls under the IR35 rules. That might mean you are legally obliged to take them onto your PAYE payroll, even if they don’t wish to, with a cost increase of up to 30%.

OUTT is on hand to offer a workable solution to help you meet the IR35 rules, and the winter working safety guidelines, without compromising your staffing strategy or your budget – get in touch for more information about how this works.

We offer employers a rating system, whereby you can report back about agency staff performance, and candidates can build up a portfolio of testimonials, skills and qualifications. If you need to pre-book skilled care home staff for the coming months and need confidence that you’re able to rely on your agency workers to deliver to the highest standards, sign up as an OUTT employer to get started!

How to Guard Against COVID-19 Infections in Care Home Settings

With the best planning in the world, we all know that it is impossible to be 100% certain about how staffing requirements will look in a few weeks!

There could be changes to pandemic safety guidelines, members of the team may need to self-isolate or take time off with illness, or demands for staff to patient ratios might change. That in mind, the critical controls to prevent the spread of Coronavirus remain of significant importance:

  • Staff to patient ratios are imperative. Care levels demand a requisite number of trained professionals and HCAs, and therefore agency staff are still permitted on an ad hoc basis as required.
  • Asking agency workers to provide a COVID-19 test before beginning a shift is a control measure in addition to seven-day testing cycles for all care staff.
  • Workers should change into their uniform on arrival, and wash that uniform, including any reusable protection items after every shift, on a hot wash.
  • Agencies should not book shifts for the same worker in two locations on the same day, to ensure that there is less risk of a care worker bringing the virus from one setting into another.
  • If an agency care home employee has been working at a home where there has been a virus outbreak, they should leave it at least 14 days before accepting a shift at another facility to ensure they are not a carrier.

With vaccination programmes rolling out, many frontline care staff may have had their first injection. However, since we cannot yet know how that will impact our ability to carry or spread the virus, having a vaccination does not eliminate the need for ongoing safety controls.

The government guidelines talk about exclusive contracts and recommend increasing employment levels to ensure you have adequate shift cover. Still, we acknowledge that this depends very much on staffing budgets, occupancy levels and pressure on your existing workforce. Usual measures such as medical-grade PPE, restrictions on visitors and movements, routine testing and enhanced hygiene and cleaning procedures remain essential.

If you need any advice about structuring agency care home staff around these new winter working guidelines, please contact the OUTT social care recruitment team. We offer cost-effective fixed agency rates, full IR35 compliance, and a network of highly skilled, and employer rated social care professionals with our support with compliance at every step of the way.

 

COVID Safety Paperless – What are We Doing Differently?

COVID Safety Paperless – What are We Doing Differently?

The coronavirus pandemic has made fundamental changes to the way we do most things – and, of course, social care recruitment is at the heart of OUTT’s purpose.

Covid Safety Paperless

Our newest initiative looks to reduce all plastic items and paper timesheets – not only to improve our environmental footprint but also to affect a safer way of working, in line with enhanced responses to the COVID-19 virus.

As an innovative social care recruitment app, we are always prepared to challenge the status quo when we see a better, faster, easier and safer way of working. Reimagining the onerous paper trails that care managers are faced with is our latest focus.

How Paperless Processes Streamline Social Care Staff Management

We all know the traditional approaches to managing agency and contingency staff, which revolve around printed documents, physical signatures, and triplicate forms.

While assurance and oversight remain critical, we knew there had to be a better way to leverage our digital know-how to reduce paper waste.

Alongside this comes a consideration of COVID safety protocols.

Most of us are now familiar with wipe-down menus, or app-based solutions in the hospitality sector. We believe it is time for the social care industry to get on board with these anti-contamination procedures.

Here is the problem:

  • Paper timesheets are completed to record shifts.
  • The authorised manager signs these at the end of the shift.
  • Triplicate copies are produced, of each form.

It is essential to have a verification process in place and to ensure social care employers manage the hours claimed; however, the implications are profound.

COVID-19 virus particles can remain live on paper for up to 24-hours, and so transporting documents between sites, or having them handled by more than one person, is a distinct contamination risk.

  • Increased risk of virus transmission with multiple documents being handled by numerous people.
  • Locum workers visit multiple social care facilities in any one working week, increasing exposure.
  • The environmental impacts of producing several copies of each paper document create waste, potential data hazards, and additional resource costs.

Here is the solution:

Digital, automated timesheets and located-based QR codes, to eliminate the requirement for hard copy documents, and thus protect staff and patients in all employment locations.

Let’s explain in a little more detail!

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Digital Innovation for Agency Staff Managers

It stands to reason that, if we can coordinate networks of social care professionals, high-quality employers and multiple shift patterns into one app  – there is a way to incorporate timesheet management into those systems!

The OUTT team has developed a new protocol, allowing employers to retain the same control over timesheet approvals, and for staff to accurately record their hours worked, but without the waste or potential contamination factors.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Timesheets are available on the candidates’ mobile device, created automatically for completion after the shift.
  2. QR codes can be scanned online on arrival and departure from the placement.
  3. Managers on-site can approve the timesheet electronically.
  4. Employers receive a weekly notification to review and approve, claims submitted.

Simple!

The same digital processes carry applications across multiple paper trails and document chains used throughout the social care sector.

As the OUTT team rolls out our new approvals systems, we will be introducing further initiatives, all equally aimed at cutting down on waste production and creating a paperless system.

Our drive is to elevate COVID security best practise at a time when contamination risks may be business-critical to care homes and social care facilities, as well as to the safety of their patients.

The Security of a Paperless System

While some fundamental processes might require physical signatures and hard copy documents, timesheet approvals are not one of them.

In researching the sector-wide impact of potential cross-contamination risks from plastic items and paper-based records, we identified that existing systems create upwards of 30,000 triplicate timesheets – for every agency, every single year.

If those figures aren’t startling enough, when we dived deeper to see what risk factors we could remove, and how we could impact overall paper usage, we found that this applies across the board, with cost factors such as:

  • Printing hard copy paper documents.
  • Delivery packages and envelopes.
  • Postage costs for document distribution

OUTT believes that not only can digital systems create a safer social care society, but that we can further reduce employer costs by eliminating outdated techniques.

As we move forward, ID cards with printed plastic formats will also be superseded by a digital, contactless alternative.

Live ID cards, generated centrally with tamper-proof technology, will enable candidates to display their credentials via any mobile device, with the same information displayed in the employer’s OUTT control panel.

ID cards are another traditional element prevalent in the social care workforce – and we recognise the critical importance of staff screening and ID verification – but by making this process digital, we introduce a further development to increase COVID awareness.

Coronavirus particles can live for up to 72 hours on plastic. So, this is not just efficiency and convenience  – it might be a life-saving technique to afford the highest levels of protection to our most vulnerable patients.

Our Responsibility to Drive COVID Awareness

There is no sector, family or individual who hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. As such, we need to work together to create solutions to make our environment as safe and protected as we can.

And, when it comes to environmental impacts, it is hard to find a negative.

In 2016/17, the NHS alone produced 29,062 tonnes of CO2 through paper transactions.

The estimate is that this could have been almost halved to 15,840 tonnes were recycled materials used – but OUTT is setting our sights on net zero.

In the media, we often hear adverse reports about the social care sector, relating to underfunding, mass skills shortages, or out-dated infrastructure.

Now is our chance to make a difference.

The personal touch will forever remain crucial to social care facilities, and make a significant difference in the quality of care and communication we offer to residents and patients.

However, by embracing technological innovation, and being open to the possibility of new systems and protocols, we can move social care recruitment into the 21st Century, adopting safety measures that set the tone for best practise in COVID-19 safety and patient safeguarding.

For more information about the latest OUTT developments, or managing timesheet approvals through your digital app, visit us online or get in touch!

Social Care Worker Safety during Covid-19

Social Care Worker Safety during Covid-19

Our social care workers are invaluable, and provide an amazing service in caring for us when we need it most! (Well we are clapping you every week)

For social care worker safety during Covid-19, here are a few things to think about to make sure you stay safe during the pandemic.

Complications of Workplace Safety in Social Care

Social care is a diverse area of the UK jobs world. With so many different settings and innumerable types of work included within social care jobs, there isn’t an easy way to produce a set of guidelines that will work everywhere!

One of the biggest challenges is that many social care jobs involve working alone. That could include, for example:

  • Supported living houses, where one project worker can support a few residents
  • Home care workers providing one to one care in someone’s home
  • Overnight workers keeping a careful watch over their residents to keep them safe at night
  • Homeless support workers providing essential concierge services to shelters and refuses

Skills for Care spoke to our healthcare workers to understand what lone working is like. They report back that 80% of respondents feel a high level of job satisfaction, and that 76% feel that having the responsibility of working alone provides a positive impact on their decision-making skills.

As you can see, social care jobs cover such a broad range of skills and services that a one size fits all solution just isn’t going to work for such a broad range of posts!

Why is Social Care a High-Risk Areas?

As well as having lots of social care jobs where staff work alone, the key reason that healthcare is considered high risk is that it is impossible to do an amazing job without being in contact with people.

Every social care worker is a helper. You care for people who need assistance with their daily lives, help the elderly or immobile to get around every day, and provide care for the sick, the disabled and the vulnerable.

Social care is one of the most meaningful and rewarding careers since you make a huge difference every day!

What this does mean is direct contact is essential to the job. During the Covid-19 pandemic more than ever, every care worker is vital. Where would we be without you?

So that in mind, let’s look at what you, and your employer, can do to make sure that you are kept safe and well, whilst providing these most crucial of services.

Maintaining Social Care Workers Safety during Covid-19

The first step is to consider the basics; which we know every healthcare professional working social care shifts already knows!

  • Make sure to wear PPE wherever appropriate, and swap out your gloves and face masks after every use
  • If you are short on supplies, report it immediately to your employer or manager where you at working; don’t put yourself at risk!
  • We know that constant hand washing is a pain, but keep it up, and wash your hands thoroughly after each contact
  • Change out of your work clothes before travelling home
  • Observe social distancing where you can; we know that this sometimes just isn’t possible, but when you can try to keep your 2m distances
  • If you feel unwell or have any symptoms, make sure to stay at home and self-isolate
  • Should you need to cough or blow your nose, make sure to use a tissue and throw it away immediately, or cough into your elbow if you have to – but if you aren’t well, make sure to stay at home and look after yourself!

If you need a quick recap, have a look at the government advice that is updated regularly. There is also guidance about key services, and which roles are essential (including yours!).

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Help for Social Care Workers during the Pandemic

If your job changes in any way, you’ll need a risk assessment. Whilst it might sound like a lot of paperwork, this is there as a tool to help you.

Don’t forget that if you are looking for a new job, or perhaps to try something new whilst demand for skilled care workers is so high, to check out the job app for opportunities across London!

Chat with your employer if you’re unsure of their specific policy, but they will either help you create a risk assessment or write one with you. This means working out any problems you might face, where you might be exposed to risk, and what they can do to make sure you’re kept safe and well.

It’s also a great time to think about your mental health. Whilst everybody is under more stress than usual, being on the front line of healthcare means going out much more than non-essential workers, so take a moment to check in with yourself!

If you’re experiencing any problems or anxieties, make sure to speak up and see what you can do to ease the strain. Key workers are essential all the time and will be just as important after the pandemic. Skills for Care publishes a guide that explains all about the responsibilities and duties of employers and employees, so if you are in any doubt take the time to have a read!

We hope these guidelines help as a recap. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so try to take as great care of yourself as you do for your clients!

Registering with OUTT provides experienced social care candidates the opportunity to build an employer review base and take full control of where and when they work. It’s your life, live it! Register with us now!