Care HomesCovid-19HighlightsNews

Covid Vaccinations To Be Made Compulsory For Care Home Staff

Compulsory Covid vaccinations for care home staff in England will be required from the autumn unless medically exempt under new regulations.

MPs approved the measure yesterday (Tuesday July 13) with the House of Commons approving the regulations by 319 votes to 246.

Unvaccinated workers will be banned from entering England’s care homes from November under far-reaching laws also approved in Parliament, however, emergency services, urgent maintenance workers and those visiting the dying will be exempt.

Health Minister Helen Whately confirmed the law would cover “not only care home staff, it also includes NHS staff who are entering care homes, ” adding that the law was about protecting elderly residents, she told MP’s: “There have been more than 40,000 deaths among care home residents. They were mothers and fathers, grans and granddads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.”

Thirty Tories rebelled against the proposals, with Conservative William Wragg saying: “You could perhaps have a painting next to me of Munch’s The Scream and get towards the feeling I have over the conduct of Government business in this House.

“The Government is treating this House with utter contempt. Ninety minutes on a statutory instrument to fundamentally change the balance of human rights in this country is nothing short of a disgrace.

“The fact no impact assessment exists, and I contend that it does not exist – and if that is proven to be the case then I’m afraid the minister will be in a tricky position if she contends it does and it doesn’t – is a disgrace.”

The Independent Care Group (ICG) expressed concerns over the move, fearing it will discourage people from taking up jobs in social care at a time when there are upwards of 120,000 vacancies.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “This is totally the wrong approach to this issue and shows a total lack of understanding of the social care sector. It is also surely wrong to be voting this measure through without producing impact assessments – making a judgement without having all the facts”.

“Given time and the right message from government, I firmly believe that we could get to the right level of vaccination within social care.”

“But making it compulsory and a condition of employment is not the way forward. It is going to discourage people from joining the sector at a time when we are facing an existential staffing crisis.”

“Forcing people to do something against their will does not sit well with me and I’d prefer it to remain a matter of personal choice rather than be compulsory.”

“I think the Government hasn’t gone far enough in its efforts to persuade people of the value of the vaccine and is using the blunt instrument of legislation.”

“This will without doubt create another barrier to recruitment at a time when social care providers are facing an employment crisis and struggling to fill one shift at a time.

“What about those already employed? Are employers going to have to force them to have the injection and dismiss them if they don’t? That can’t be right and will surely open the door for legal challenge.”

“There has been discussion about redeploying those who won’t have the vaccine, but again that isn’t always an option, particularly for smaller operators. This whole thing seems to demonstrate once again a lack of understanding of the social care sector.”

“It isn’t right that it is compulsory for social care staff and not, at this stage, for NHS staff who are similarly working with the most vulnerable people.”“And where will this end? Is the flu jab also to be made compulsory as that can be similarly debilitating and even fatal for some people?”

Matthew Wort, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said: “Last night, parliament voted to approve the draft Regulations making it mandatory for anyone entering a registered care home in England to have been double vaccinated unless they are clinically exempt, subject to a short list of exemptions. There is a 16 week grace period – care homes will have until 2 November 2021 to get ready.”

“Despite concerns being raised about human rights and the lack of an impact assessment for the regulations, only a few Conservative MPs rebelled against the government. Earlier in the day, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee had expressed its concerns about the Regulations. For example, why is no guidance published yet on what evidence of vaccination would be required and why is the use of PPE and masks sufficient to manage the risks for visitors, but not staff or hairdressers attending at the home? What would the impact be in a sector already struggling to recruit”?

“Regulations could be challenged on human rights grounds. However, it will now be left for employees affected by the Regulations and their representative bodies to consider whether to challenge the new rules and as yet we haven’t seen any suggestions that a judicial review will be initiated. As a result, all care homes now need to urgently implement appropriate systems to comply with the new regulations.”