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Care worker, 28, who was sacked for refusing to get a Covid vaccine says she feels like she has had ‘her heart ripped out’ by PM’s ‘no jab, no job’ policy
- Holly Higgins worked as a healthcare assistant in Stockport for almost four years
- She was sacked from Appleton Manor after missing the November 11 deadline
- She submitted proof of medical exemption but, she alleges, this was denied
- She claims she developed asthma and allergies from working through pandemic
- HC-One, who run the home, said it ‘engaged at length’ with colleagues
A care worker who was dismissed from her job for refusing to get a Covid vaccine says she has been left feeling ‘worthless’.
Holly Higgins had been working as a healthcare assistant at Appleton Manor, in Stockport, for almost four years until she was sacked.
The mother-of-one lost her job after the Government made it a requirement for all care home workers in England, excluding those who were medically exempt, to be double jabbed by November 11.
Holly, 28, refused to take the vaccine ahead of the deadline and said she submitted proof for medical exemption which, she alleges, was denied.
She believes working through the pandemic caused her to develop a number of health problems, including asthma and allergies, which she says she never suffered from previously.
HC-One, who run Appleton Manor, defended the policy and said it was a ‘responsible step for us to take to protect the people we care for’.
A spokesman said the company ‘engaged at length’ with colleagues ‘to understand their individual reasons for not receiving the vaccine.’
Up to 57,000 care home staff were barred from their workplace on November 11 as England’s new rule kicked in, despite desperate pleas from the sector for it to be delayed.
Holly Higgins was dismissed from her job as a healthcare assistant at Appleton Manor, in Stockport after refusing to get a Covid vaccine ahead of the Government-mandated deadline
HC-One, who run Appleton Manor, defended the policy and said it was a ‘responsible step for us to take to protect the people we care for’. A spokesman said the company ‘engaged at length’ with colleagues ‘to understand their individual reasons for not receiving the vaccine’
Holly, who is now unemployed, says the ordeal ripped her heard out.
She told the Manchester Evening News: ‘I’ve had to leave the residents I’ve looked after for three and a half years. I feel so worthless.
‘I feel like we weren’t valued at all throughout the pandemic.
‘And now to be last year’s heroes and this year’s unemployed – it’s totally unfair.’
Holly said she thought she had caught Covid in March 2020 because she lost her sense of smell and taste and has not regained it 18 months on.
‘I’m certain it’s from testing as it was perfectly fine before all that’, she added.
What are the rules for care home staff and NHS workers?
A new law came into force on November 11 requiring anyone working in care homes to have had both doses of the Covid vaccine, unless they are medically exempt.
Care homes managers have the responsibility of ensuring workers are vaccinated, and will have to keep records.
They will face sanctions from the Care Quality Commission if they employ anyone who is unvaccinated.
How many staff are losing their jobs?
Data showed around 32,000 care home staff were completely unvaccinated at the start of November.
Another 30,000 had yet to receive their second dose but had had their first.
Only around 5,000 were thought to be medically exempt. Therefore, in total up to 57,000 were banned from working in homes from on November 11, the first day of the new rule.
What impact is this having on care homes?
It has exacerbated existing staffing shortages and put hundreds of homes on the brink of closure.
There were already more than 100,000 vacancies across the social care sector in England before ministers confirmed the controversial ‘no jab, no job’ policy.
Research by the Institute of Health and Social Care Management suggests eight in ten care homes will lose at least one member of staff. Some 43 per cent of homes will lose three or more staff.
They say this will make it hard to care for patients, and mean some will have to be looked after in NHS hospitals instead.
Care homes are urging ministers to extend the mandatory jabs deadline until April to bring care homes into line with the NHS.
What are the rules for NHS staff?
From April 1 the compulsory jabs rule will also apply to all staff across the NHS and social care, a total of around 2.3million people in England.
Anyone who comes into contact with patients, including volunteers, receptionists and cleaners on top of doctors in nurses, must be fully vaccinated or face losing their jobs.
What does the Government say?
Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday ruled out delaying the mandatory jabs deadline for care home staff until April.
The Department of Health has acknowledged the policy this will trigger a mass exodus from health and social care, but say it is needed to protect vulnerable patients.
The Government’s own impact assessment suggests 126,000 healthcare staff — across the NHS and social care sector — are likely to be sacked next April when the rule is enforced.
‘I never had asthma before Covid happened, before I had to wear a mask.
‘I don’t want to risk getting any more health conditions.’
Holly, who also suffers with anxiety, says she submitted these medical issues as proof that she could be exempt from having the vaccine, but claimed she was denied.
She said she was the only person at the home who refused to get vaccinated and had a meeting in August to discuss the issue where she was told she would be dismissed if she refused it.
She added: ‘I suffer from anxiety so became distressed in the meeting and they didn’t care.
‘They said to try and get something off the GP to prove I had asthma and other health issues.
‘I proved that and they said it wasn’t a good enough reason.’
HC-One confirmed it met with colleagues to discuss issues, and said it expected to lose fewer than 500 of its 20,000 workforce due to ‘colleagues who have chosen to remain unvaccinated without qualifying medical exemptions’.
All care home workers in England, including cleaners and receptionists, have been legally required, since November 11, to have had both of their Covid vaccines.
The sector was already short of 100,000 workers before the pandemic struck and the new rule meant tens of thousands of employees were barred from their workplaces.
Unions warned that the new rule was like ‘taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut’, given that 90 per cent of the workforce was already vaccinated before the new date came in to force.
Holly, who is currently unemployed, says she has no future plans to return to care work but intends to take her old employers to a tribunal.
‘I don’t have any words’, she added.
‘I see it as it doesn’t really matter about vaccination status as you can still catch it and transmit it regardless. I’m going to try and tribunal it.
‘All of this is causing stress and anxiety to my life. I haven’t signed anything in my contract to say I’d have a vaccine.
‘I’ve refused the flu jab every time I’ve been there. I just don’t have any injections so I’m not going to make an exception for Covid.
‘What’s the point when you can still catch it.
‘A vaccine doesn’t make you the person you are today. It’s whether you care or you don’t.
‘Why it’s a level of requirement now – it’s bonkers.’
A spokesperson for HC-One said the company announced in July that the Covid-19 vaccine ‘would be a condition of employment for all HC-One employees across the nations’.
In a statement, HC-One added: ‘This was the responsible step for us to take to protect the people we care for, as well as our colleagues, as the evidence clearly shows that vaccination cuts transmission and substantially reduces the risk of hospitalisation.
‘The introduction of the Government’s legislation in England on 11 November means that HC-One now also has a legal duty to ensure that all colleagues in our homes across England are either fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption in line with the Government’s guidance.
‘Since the vaccination programme started, we have worked tirelessly to support colleagues to choose to be vaccinated, and are pleased with the high vaccination take up we have seen in all our homes.
‘Since the mandate was announced, we have made every effort to explain the consequences to colleagues who choose not to be vaccinated, and who do not have a valid medical exemption.
‘We have engaged at length, including on a one-to-one basis, with colleagues and their representatives to understand their individual reasons for not receiving the vaccine.’
Holly, 28, refused to take the vaccine ahead of the deadline and said she submitted proof for medical exemption which, she alleges, was denied
The spokesman added: ‘We expect to lose a small proportion of colleagues who have chosen to remain unvaccinated without qualifying medical exemptions.
‘We expect this number to be less than 500, from our colleague population of over 20,000.
‘Our HR and Resourcing teams have been working hard with homes over recent months to anticipate any vacancies as a result of this requirement, so that we can ensure our homes continue to be adequately staffed, enabling us to provide continuity of care to residents.’