NHS figures reveal how many care home staff have left the industry after the compulsory Covid vaccine mandate was introduced - with Darlington particularly hard-hit.

NHS England data shows that 1,151 people were working in elderly care homes across Darlington on January 2 – the most recent date for which figures are available.

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This is 106 fewer than the 1,257 recorded on July 18 – days before a 16-week 'grace period' for care workers to get their first jab started.

In County Durham, there were 30 fewer care home workers on January 2 compared to mid-July, and in North Yorkshire, 32 workers left in the same period.

Mike Padgham, who heads the Independent Care Group representing independent care providers in York and North Yorkshire, says that the figures don't tell the whole story.

He said: "I think I'm right in saying that there are around 1,000 vacancies in the care sector in North Yorkshire so losing 32 just adds to that - and it doesn't take into account people who would have joined but haven't."

"(Losing) 32 when you are already short is a lot of people and that means a lot of people not getting the care they need."

Mr Padgham, who wrote to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid in August about the shortage of front-line care staff, said the government needs to invest much more into the sector.

Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington, said it wasn't clear that staff had left the sector due to the vaccine mandate and pointed out that there were currently many job opportunities in the town that could be enticing people away from care work.

He said that there were staff shortages in a 'whole host' of industries, adding that privately-owned care homes needed to make themselves more competitive in terms of wages to attract more staff.

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He added: "Parliament took a decision that it was the right thing to do that staff in care homes caring for people who effectively have no control over who cares for them, that those people should be vaccinated.

"It is the decision that parliament took and that I am happy to support."

Mr Gibson said government measures such as increasing the living wage and offering free work training schemes showed that it was 'playing its part' to alleviate staff problems.

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.

“However, it will be some months before older people feel the benefit of these much-needed changes."

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