The legal requirement for health and social care staff to be double jabbed will be removed from 15 March
Regulations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment in health and social care will be revoked on Tuesday 15 March, the Health and Social Care Secretary has confirmed.
Following a public consultation, where 90% of responses supported the removal of the legal requirement for health and social care staff to be double jabbed, the government is revoking the regulations.
In January, the government confirmed its intention to revoke vaccination as a condition of deployment, subject to consultation.
The mandatory vaccination rules for care staff came into force last November, and had been due to be introduced and implemented for frontline NHS and wider social care staff in regulated settings from 1 April.
The policy met with heavy resistance with warnings that sacking those who refused to be vaccinated would worsen the already critical staffing crisis engulfing health and care services. Several MPs had also criticised the decision.
The government says that when the original decision was taken to introduce COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment, Delta was the dominant variant. This has since been replaced by Omicron which is less severe, with the percentage of those requiring emergency care or hospital admission approximately half that of the Delta variant.
And that: “thanks hugely successful vaccination programme, the immunity built up in the population and our new antiviral and therapeutics tools, we are now in the strong position of learning to live with COVID-19. The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that five to nine weeks after getting a booster, you are at least 85% less likely to end up in hospital than if you are unvaccinated.”
“With the population better protected and lower levels of hospitalisations and mortality, it was right to revisit the balance of risks and benefits that had guided the government’s original decisions to introduce vaccination as a condition of deployment in health and social care. The number of restrictions, rules and regulations are now being reduced – including this requirement.”
While the vast majority of NHS, social care and other healthcare staff have been double jabbed, the government says that it “is clear those working in health and social care who remain unvaccinated still have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and Get Boosted Now.”
The government added that it’s priority is to ensure the most vulnerable to COVID-19 remain protected through vaccinations, antivirals and therapeutics, and is continuing to work closely with Royal Colleges and professional regulators to strengthen guidance and consult on updating the Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections in relation to COVID-19 requirements for CQC registered providers of health and social care in England.
Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said Javid’s announcement had come too late to repair the “huge” damage done to the care sector.
“Staff have already left residential care services and found new jobs in the NHS and home care,” he told the Guardian. “I seriously doubt we are going to see lots of them coming back.”
The decision was welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), while Unison said many staff who left care homes due to the requirement were unlikely to return to their jobs.
The RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said the change was the “right decision”, adding: “Holding the threat of losing their jobs over the heads of the small minority of staff who had not been vaccinated was the wrong approach and this decision will be welcomed by those whose jobs were at risk.”
But she said it had come “too late for those who have already lost their jobs”. She added: “Ministers must now urgently address the health and social care workforce crisis which is undermining nursing staff’s ability to care safely for their patients. There are tens of thousands of nursing vacancies across those services.”
Calls to Pay Real Living Wage
Gavin Edwards, the head of care at Unison, said: “There were always better ways of upping the jab rate in care. Making the vaccine mandatory meant thousands of experienced staff quit care homes. These were workers the struggling sector could ill afford to lose.
“Many won’t go back either. They have found better paid, less stressful work elsewhere. Ministers could go some way towards making up for the distress caused by ensuring every care worker is paid at least the real living wage. That would begin to solve the current staffing crisis.”