Following a two-month consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care in April, Covid vaccinations are to become mandatory for people working in care homes with older adult residents in England.
The government will implement the mandatory vaccination requirement by amending the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2936) to insert a new provision in the fundamental standards in Part 3 of the Regulations. This will be subject to a 16-week grace period following the coming into force of the amending regulations.
The consultation response lists three key changes to the proposals set out in the original consultation document:
- Extending the scope of the policy to all care homes in England registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), rather than just those with residents over the age of 65.
- Extending the vaccination requirement to all persons who enter a care home building, regardless of their role, rather than just care home staff and volunteers. This will therefore include other health professionals, hairdressers, beauticians, tradespeople and CQC inspectors.
- Widening of the proposed exemptions, to include residents; their friends and family; anyone who is medically exempt; anyone assisting with an emergency or carrying out urgent maintenance work; anyone working only in the external grounds; and anyone under the age of 18.
There are also consultations to extend the mandatory status to the NHS, however, there are no plans to extend mandatory vaccinations beyond health and care workers. The decision to make the vaccine mandatory for care home staff is to save lives as the vaccines protects not only you but also protects those around you.
What does this mean?
Once the vaccine is made mandatory and approved by Parliament, care home staff and workers will have 16 weeks from that date to get both their vaccinations and they will face being redeployed from front-line care. There is also the potential that workers who do not get their vaccine will lose their jobs.
The mandatory vaccination will also apply to volunteers and those visiting care homes for other work such as healthcare workers, hairdressers, beauticians, and tradespeople. However, there will be exemptions for people who visit such as family and friends, people under 18, people undertaking emergency maintenance work and the emergency services.
Workers who can prove they are medically exempt, will not be required to get the vaccine and their employment will not be affected.
Whilst England are making the vaccine mandatory, Governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have said they have no plans to make Covid vaccines mandatory for care home staff due to the willingness of staff to get the vaccine voluntarily.
How you can support your staff in deciding.
If you have staff who are hesitant to get their vaccine, make sure they have accurate information about the vaccine and support them with making the best decision. There are now a number of advertising campaigns targeting vaccination for care home workers as well as webinars held by health leaders that you can point your employees in the direction of.
There are also repeat visits being made to homes by vaccination teams to encourage the uptake of staff taking the vaccine.
If you have employees who are medically exempt, regular testing can still be conducted to ensure that you are maintaining the safety of your residents and/or clients.
Pros and Cons on the vaccine becoming mandatory in care home.
The biggest focus for the government choosing to make the vaccine is mandatory is that those caring for the most vulnerable people in our society would be vaccinated and would therefore be minimal risk to your residents and/or clients. Therefore, one positive aspect would be that you would be saving lives of any vulnerable people around you.
However, a negative aspect to making the vaccination mandatory is that employees who do not want the vaccine may chose not to work in a care home and therefore could lead to staff shortages due to some employees choosing to quit. This could also impact recruitment as it would deter potential workers from applying to the social care industry.