CARE home staff who stayed loyal through the worst of the pandemic are being “let down” by the threat of the sack if they refuse a vaccine, it is claimed.

LuxuryCare Group, which runs five homes in Bournemouth and Poole, warned in the summer of the “heartbreaking” prospect of dismissing long-serving staff.

The industry has been given some leeway while the government introduces regulations but still faces losing staff when the rules come into force in November.

Staff in the industry have since been given the option to self-certify if they have already received a vaccination abroad or have medical reasons for not having the jab.

Sam Hoskins, operations director at LuxuryCare Group, said: “It’s given them time.”

But she said it was still not possible to assure people that they would not lose their jobs.

“It’s not our decision, it’s far above us. We’re going to lose staff that have been so loyal to us for 10 or 12 years because their reaction is that they don’t want to be vaccinated,” she said.

She said the issue was a concern across the industry. “It’s the general consensus across the board. I think most people still feel that we’re all being hung out to dry,” she said.

“We still can’t say to our staff their position is safe.”

She said many of the people at risk of losing their jobs had worked through the worst of the crisis, when people with Covid were being discharged into care homes.

“They’ve been on the frontline right from the beginning often at the cost of their own family and friends, to look after the people we care for and now they’re being let down,” she added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Over 90 per cent of care home staff have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the November 11 deadline and we encourage even more staff to get vaccinated to protect their colleagues and those they care for.

“Temporarily, those who meet the criteria for a medical exemption will be able to self-certify until we introduce a new system. This will ensure those with medical exemptions can continue working in care homes.”

The government says staff who self-certify for a medical exemption will be subject to disciplinary action if they provide false information.

Once the new system is launched, staff will need to apply for a formal exemption, subject to approval by a GP or specialist.