Care homes face a Christmas crisis with up to 42,000 workers at risk of the axe for not being Covid-jabbed.
And unions warn the shortfall in England will hit 170,000 by year-end.
Home manager Kerry Jackson, 45, said: “It’s scary. It will be like no other winter.”
Care home bosses fear staff shortages will cause a winter crisis worse than last year.
Stretched homes are facing a Christmas “like no other” because of the devastating exodus of workers.
Unions warn the social care staffing shortfall in England will hit 170,000 by the end of the year.
Their predictions came as Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted care staff must be fully vaccinated by November 11 or “get another job”.
At one care home, 13 staff have already walked out after snubbing vaccines. The same number again are likely to leave when next month’s rule comes into force.
Are you worried about a winter crisis? Have your say in the comment section
Kerry Jackson, 45, manager at Boldmere Court Care Home in Birmingham, said the sudden exodus, coupled with chronic staffing shortages, will make it hard to replace staff.
She said: “I thought it couldn’t get worse than last year when we had staff spending Christmas sleeping on the floor. But this winter will knock spots off last winter.
“It’s very scary and I think it’s probably too late to really do anything. I think it will be like no other winter.”
Boldmere looks after residents with complex dementia. And Kerry said: “We are losing staff who were with us for a long time.”
The Sunday People can reveal more than 42,000 workers – 7.3% of the sector’s current 570,000 workforce – will be forced out by Mr Javid’s looming “no jab, no job” rule.
Jab refusers cite reasons such as pregnancy, cultural beliefs and safety fears for spurning vaccination.
Those care staff refusing tend to be younger and feel invulnerable, object to being told what to do or are concerned about fertility – despite a lack of evidence to support their fears.
Nationally, about 8.6% of the UK’s over-16s and some 8% of NHS staff remain unjabbed.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not require compulsory vaccination and, currently, nor does the NHS.
A consultation on whether shots should be mandatory for NHS staff began on September 9 and is expected to last six weeks.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The Government’s handled this terribly. Next month’s sacking of thousands of care staff spells disaster for a sector already on the ropes. Such strong-armed tactics were destined to fail given the desperate shortage of workers.
“Care homes forced to let experienced people go could close, piling pressure on the NHS. Sajid Javid must extend the deadline, or better still scrap this ridiculous law. He should be persuading care staff to stay and have the vaccine, not telling them to do one.”
There have been calls to add care workers to the list of shortage occupations – allowing migrant workers to come in on temporary visas.
Vic Rayner, of support group National Care Forum, said: “We need to value care now or we risk a care crisis at Christmas.
“The workforce crisis is escalating at a rate of knots with… vacancies rates spiralling out of control.
“The next six months are critical for social care but most importantly they’re critical for people and communities.”
He urged the Government to delay mandatory vaccination in care home settings until it has been agreed across all of health and care.
NHS data shows 42,698 care home workers did not have a first Covid shot in time to have a second dose before November 11’s double jab deadline. Another 40,000 staff are yet to have a second jab but expected to. The care home sector already had 120,000 vacancies before the pandemic hit.
On BBC Radio 4 yesterday, Mr Javid refused to consider a pause.
He said: “If you want to work in a care home, you are working with some of the most vulnerable people in our country. And if you can’t be bothered to go and get vaccinated, then get out and go and get another job.”
GMB union’s Rachel Harrison said Mr Javid was clueless about the staff situation and out of his depth. She said: “His lack of empathy and understanding or willingness to engage on the reasons on why some carers aren’t vaccinated is appalling. Thanks to the Tories, we are on course to be 170,000 carers short this autumn, and the whole system is facing collapse. With so many vacancies the pressure will fall on hospitals and NHS workers already demoralised and stretched thin.
“Perhaps the Minister should be the one looking for a new job.”
She called for minimum pay of £15-an-hour for care staff, who are “highly skilled professionals”.
Over 40,000 care home residents’ deaths have been linked to Covid-19. The Government was widely condemned for its handling of the sector early in the pandemic. There were no requirements to test all patients being discharged from hospital into a care home until April 15, 2020 – a month after Covid measures were first implemented.
The virus swept through homes with bosses struggling to access sufficient PPE and testings.
Care campaigners have warned the forthcoming staff crisis will impact vulnerable residents.
Jayne Connery, of Care Campaign for the Vulnerable, said: “I think the Government has been blindsided by mandatory vaccination. They thought it would be dire if carers weren’t jabbed – but it’s just as dire if residents don’t have enough carers.”
Care homes are already suffering the impact of post-Brexit immigration rules. EU workers represented almost 6% of the social care workforce in 2017. And a Government report this month warned of a “looming shortage” without them.
Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Social Care, said: “Instead of hanging care providers out to dry, the Government must put in place a real, long-term workforce plan to stabilise the sector and give staff the pay, training and recognition they deserve.”
Care England, representing providers, is calling for “immediate investment” by the Government to “stabilise the sector” and for care workers to be added to the shortage occupation list so staff can be recruited from abroad. Chief Martin Green said: “The Government has taken steps to enable HGV drivers into the country and the same urgency needs to be attached to the adult social care sector.”
The Department of Health pointed out the figure of 42,698 includes some carers who are medically exempt from shots.
A spokesman added: “Over 90% of care home staff have received their first dose ahead of the 11 November deadline and we encourage even more to get vaccinated to protect their colleagues and those they care for.
“We are working closely with local authorities and care providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills.”