Providers React To Vaccine Consultation

Hopes for voluntary take-up

CARE providers today reacted to news that the Government is to consult over whether to make the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for those working in care settings.

The Independent Care Group (ICG) says it would prefer people to have the vaccine voluntarily rather than be forced to.

It hopes the five-week consultation period will enable people to make up their own mind to be vaccinated before it is possibly made a condition of employment.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham: “We agree that the vaccine is very important in care settings and that it has undoubtedly saved many lives.

“The message coming out from the Government seems to be in favour of legislation but I think we ought to consider all sides of this argument very carefully.

“My view would be persuade, cajole and convince rather than legislate. We don’t want any more barriers to recruitment into the care sector.

“I have always been of the belief that we shouldn’t force someone to have an injection and it should be voluntary.

“The Government must work harder to persuade everyone to have the injection to help move the country back to normality.

“We must also remember that if it is to be made compulsory in care settings then it must surely be the same in NHS care settings and in other areas too. The question is, where might this stop?”

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum – the leading association for not for profit care provider says: “There has been much speculation about the Government’s plans to mandate vaccination for care staff working in older people’s care settings. It is not clear how it can be possible to focus mandatory vaccines on only one cohort of staff working with older people when older people are very likely to experience care and treatment interventions from health staff and a range of other professionals. This consultation has very significant implications for the older people living in care homes and their families, the organisations who run care homes and the staff who work in them, so we urge them all to respond to the consultation to make their views heard. Our shared aim must remain to focus on what works to make sure that as many people as possible in social care are able to have the vaccine.“

Nathan Donaldson, employment solicitor at Keystone Law said: “The consultation from the government on making Covid-19 vaccinations a condition of employment for those in the care sector is a welcome step as it will provide further guidance and hopefully certainty on what an employer can require from its staff.

Care sector employers have a balancing act between ensuring the safety of both their residents and staff, whilst also respecting employees’ freedom of choice. Furthermore, in absence of further statutory intervention by the government, it will be difficult for employers (even in the care sector) to make vaccinations legally compulsory for its staff. As evidence by the NHS (the U.K.’s largest care provider) not making vaccinations for Covid-19 mandatory.

It is for these reasons that the government has rightly moved to consult on this topic, so that care sector employers will have statutory certainty as to what they can require of their staff in terms of vaccination.

It is hoped that the outcome of the consultation will result in legislation that will support providers to make long-term and pragmatic decisions to ensure the welfare of its employees, residents and their families. It is also assumed that any steps to make vaccinations mandatory will have associated safeguards, through requiring informing and consultation obligations upon the employer and for legitimate exceptions to apply where vaccination would not be appropriate. Such as relating to those employees who have a disability, pre-existing medical condition or are of an age or religious/philosophical belief that would afford them reasonable grounds to refuse vaccination.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “We have been really impressed how care providers have worked with their staff to listen to their concerns about the vaccine and this has had a very positive effect with a good take up. The sector is divided on whether or not vaccination should be mandatory, but it is wholly united in its support for the vaccine and has done everything it can to persuade its residents and staff to have it. Should the vaccine be mandatory for adult social care staff working in care homes for older people it begs the question whether it should not be mandatory for the NHS, those working in other care home settings, supported living, hospices, etc as well.”