Mandatory Covid Vaccination Policy for NHS Staff to be “Revoked”

Regulations making vaccines a condition of deployment for health and social care staff are set to be revoked, subject to public consultation and parliamentary approval, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced.

Speaking in parliament health secretary Savid Javid said: “While vaccination remains our very best line of defence against COVID-19, I believe it is no longer proportionate to require Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment through statute.”

“So, Madam Deputy Speaker, today I am announcing that we will launch a consultation on ending Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment in health and all social care settings.”

“Subject to the responses – and the will of this House – the Government will revoke the regulations.”

When vaccination as a condition of deployment was introduced Delta was the dominant variant representing 99% of cases. Omicron has now replaced Delta as the dominant variant at 96% of cases.

Two vaccine doses against Omicron also become less effective over time, which is why the Get Boosted Now campaign was launched in December. The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows boosters are around 90% effective in preventing hospitalisation from Omicron soon after they are administered.

Over 31 million boosters in England alone, and over 37 million in the UK, have now been administered providing a good level of protection across the country. This, coupled with the lower levels of hospitalisation and mortality, suggests the population as a whole is now better protected, with the latest evidence suggesting that the risk of presentation to emergency care or hospital admission is approximately half of that for Delta.

As a result, the government has re-examined the policy as it considers how best to achieve public health and safety with the minimum number of restrictions or requirements on people’s lives. The balance of opportunities and risks of the policy have now changed with the dominance of Omicron. The booster rollout has been successful, and workforce challenges remain.

While the legal requirement on deployment is set to be revoked those working in health and social care still have a professional duty to get vaccinated and Get Boosted Now.

The government says it will work closely with Royal Colleges and professional regulators to strengthen guidance, and consult on updates to the Department of Health and Social Care’s Code of Practice for regulated providers to strengthen the requirements in relation to COVID-19, which applies to all CQC registered providers of all health and social care in England.

Since the consultation on health and wider social care staff was announced in September more than 127,000 NHS staff came forward for a vaccine and 95% have now had at least one dose.

After the consultation on vaccines as a condition of deployment was launched and regulations laid uptake among care home staff rose from 77% to 94.5%, helping to build a wall of protection.

These changes, the government adds, will be subject to a period of consultation, parliamentary approval and will require a change to the regulations already laid.

Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of The National Care Forum (NCF) said: “NCF and our membership have been 100% behind the drive for vaccination and booster take up throughout the pandemic. However, we have consistently challenged the argument to force people to be vaccinated, finding the best results came from persuasion and encouragement, with good information and support to address people’s concerns respectfully and to encourage vaccine take up.”

In July last year, the government laid regulations for the mandatory vaccination requirements for all who worked in, and crossed the thresholds of care homes. Those laws were passed almost on the same day that the country experienced so called ‘freedom day’. Yet despite the pronouncements the virus was on the wane, the government felt that mandation was a proportionate response and brought in the requirement for all care home staff to be vaccinated, against advice.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “This policy was imposed upon the care home sector without due consideration or support. Sadly, it has had unintended consequences with staff leaving the sector, some to the NHS, thus exacerbating the pre existing recruitment and retention challenges leading to disruption to the delivery of health and care services”.

This afternoon, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Sajid Javid, announced consultation to revoke the legislation to make mandatory vaccination a condition of deployment for the NHS, wider social care staff and care home staff.

Martin Green continues: “In our response to the consultation to the second tranche of making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector, Care England appealed for lessons to be learned from the legislation process around regulations for care home staff. These were not taken on board. Care homes have been the scapegoat and whilst the Government claims that health and social care are the same system it is clear that they are operating under different standards; once again social care is the poor relation”.

Rebecca Young, Head of External Affairs at Revitalise said: “The Government’s U-turn on enforcing mandatory vaccination for NHS staff and social care today is a great relief.”

“Social care is experiencing the worst staffing crisis in memory: tens of thousands of care home staff left the sector in November due to the mandatory vaccination ruling, on top of an estimated 100,00 existing vacancies.”

“At Revitalise, we have already lost several long-standing colleagues because of the mandate, at a time when we were already struggling to recruit. This means we have had to cap the number of people we can care for who really need our services, a devastating blow to people in desperate need of respite breaks.”

“This has been a widespread crisis in social care, with some providers simply having to close their doors due to staffing shortages, meaning that a policy aimed at protecting the disabled and elderly has actually put thousands at risk.”

“While this U-Turn is welcome, we are also disappointed the concerns continually raised within social care have gone unheard, and it took the power of the NHS to push this Government into action. Now, we have to hope that valued care workers will be able to return to the skilled and vital roles they had to leave in November.”