NEARLY 200 fewer people are working in Essex care homes now than when mandatory Covid vaccines were announced for the sector, figures have revealed.

Rules set by the Government last year stated care workers in England needed to have at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by September 16 to continue working, and two doses by November 11.

The move was in response to the high number of deaths in the care sector during the pandemic, but was widely criticised, amid fears of an "exodus" of care staff.

NHS England data shows 11,929 people were working in old people's care homes across Essex on January 2 – the most recent date for which figures are available.

That was 192 fewer than the 12,121 recorded on July 18 – days before a 16-week “grace period” for care workers to get their first jab started.

Across England, the number of staff in older adult care homes dropped by 17,000 over the same period.

It is unclear how many workers left as a result of the mandatory vaccine policy.

The Government announced it is relaxing immigration rules to make up for “severe and increasing difficulties” with recruitment in the care sector.

Care providers are experiencing high vacancy rates and turnover, and pressure on staffing is being increased by the spread of the Omicron variant.

Sam Monaghan, chief executive of MHA, the UK’s largest charitable care provider, said: “Essential care and support for older people is facing a staffing crisis the likes of which we have never seen before.

“The changes to immigration rules are a very welcome step forward in addressing the ongoing care staffing crisis."

NHS data shows 11,390 workers at older adult care homes in Essex had received two Covid jabs by January 2 – 95 per cent of staff employed on that date, and up from 8,894 on July 18.

Across England, 95 per cent of older adult care home workers have received two doses of a Covid jab.

The Department for Health and Social Care said new starters can be deployed to work in care homes 21 days after having one dose of the vaccine and must get a second jab within 10 weeks.