Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF) hasresponded to the government’s announcement that two doses of a COVID vaccine will be a condition of deployment in CQC-regulated care homes:
“The government’s decision to mandate vaccinations to all those who work in care homes is likely to create significant challenges in implementation. The policy extends much wider than the original consultation brief – bringing in care homes for working age adults as well as older people and encompassing almost everyone who crosses the care home threshold. This means that the policy applies as much to the registered manager running the home as it does to the person carrying out the annual audit of fire extinguishers. Whilst this may be seen to be a logical step, it is a logistical nightmare for care homes who will find themselves legally responsible for checking and verifying the vaccination status or exemption of people whom they have no employment or personnel oversight.
“The government has announced this policy without the detail that all employers need to start to have a detailed conversation with their employees who are yet to take up vaccination. All the time that this policy is in the public domain without the detail that sits behind it is time that is wasted in enabling these vital discussions.
“Whilst the government has described a 16 week ‘grace’ period, the policy requires people to have a full course of vaccination. This means that in effect all those who wish to work within a care home, whether as staff or from other organisations, will have to begin their vaccination journey within the first 8 weeks of that grace period – or find themselves ineligible to work. The notional idea that this is around ‘deployment’ is not a reality for the majority of care homes, as if you are employed by a care home, then you work in the care home – so the idea that homes will be able to redeploy those who are not vaccinated and not exempt is not meaningful. This is unhelpful when the sector is already facing at least 112,000 vacancies.
“The NCF response to the government consultation made clear that if this policy was to move forward it would be essential that there was a robust programme of support to ensure that employers were able to implement this. This included providing indemnity from any associated claims, to ensure prioritised vaccination of all staff – particularly new recruits – providing legal support and HR support for employers to ensure that decisions around contracts and ongoing employment are made sensitively and within the law, and supporting access to the type of occupational health services that would enable detailed and specialised conversations with employees who are concerned about the potential impact of the vaccine on their health now and in the future. However, none of this is available, nor is there any support to manage the very wide-ranging additional responsibilities that compliance with this regulation will place on the shoulder of already overburdened managers as they step forward once more to manage in the face of a new wave.
Vic Rayner goes on to say; “All care providers want to see staff vaccination rates as high as possible and have been working towards this aim. However, unless more detail and support are rapidly provided, the government runs the risk of making what appears to be the right path into an impenetrable maze in which there are real risks of creating further staffing pressures and unwittingly placing managers in the role of bouncer as they try to operate an unworkable vaccination door policy.”