Mandatory requirement for people working in care homes to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated
Following a five-week consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about a requirement for those working in care homes to be vaccinated, it has now been confirmed that people working in CQC-registered care homes will need to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated with both doses.
The decision follows an extensive public consultation with thousands of staff, providers, residents and families and will, according to the UK Government, ensure residents are better protected against COVID-19.
The new legislation means from October – subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, unless they have a medical exemption.
It will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.
Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople and CQC inspectors, will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.
The responses to the consultation made a case for extending this policy beyond care homes to other settings where people vulnerable to COVID-19 receive care, such as domiciliary care and wider healthcare settings, DHSC adds.
Based on this evidence, the government will launch a further public consultation in due course on whether or not to make COVID-19 and flu vaccination a condition of deployment in health and care settings.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk.
“Through our consultation we have listened to the experiences and concerns of providers and people living and working in care homes to help shape our approach. We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers.
“This is the right thing to do and a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future. I’d urge anyone working in care homes to get their jab as soon as possible.
“There will be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work.”
However, at the time of the consultation, Sarah Lepak, Head of Policy & Compliance at the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA), exclusively said to AT Today that the decision for mandatory vaccinations for those working in care homes was “perhaps questionable”.
She highlighted that for those employers in the assistive technology sector who cannot send an engineer into a care home due to the employee not being vaccinated, it could lead to redundancies.
Sarah added: “Whilst everyone should be encouraged to have the vaccine, particularly where they will be dealing with vulnerable people, making it compulsory has ramifications for employers and employees alike.
“Now that the vast majority of care home residents have been vaccinated (and take-up by the general population continues to be high) the need for such a policy is perhaps questionable.”
Similarly, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) believes that making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for those working in care homes is not the right way to go and that it could ultimately lead to people having to leave their jobs.
CSP Policy Director Rob Yeldham said: “We continue to encourage all of our members to be vaccinated – they have been tested and shown to be both safe and effective and are proving to be an integral step in helping us to move out of this pandemic.
“However, we do not agree with or support the announcement today that the vaccine may become compulsory for staff working in care homes with older people. We are concerned that this may create a false sense of safety when proper infection control measures will continue to be needed.
“We believe that the vaccination should remain voluntary as we recognise that a person’s individual state of health, or personal beliefs, may mean that it is not appropriate for everyone to have it.
“Making the vaccine mandatory in care homes could seriously impact on both NHS and independent physios and support workers who have chosen to or cannot have the vaccine. It is unfair, discriminatory and unethical and could ultimately lead to people having to leave their jobs.
“Imposing this should only be a last resort and we believe all other avenues should be explored fully before making this decision.
“For example take up of the vaccination is already very high within the NHS so it is possible to ensure vaccinated staff care for those at risk without having to force all staff to be vaccinated.”