Today, the Government has launched a six week public consultation on ‘Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector’ Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
The consultation aims to seek views on extending the existing statutory requirement, for those working or volunteering in a care home to be vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) to other health and care settings, including the NHS, GP practices, independent sector providers and also in a person’s home, as a condition of deployment.
In addition, the consultation will consider introducing a statutory requirement to be vaccinated against the flu as a condition of deployment, as a means to protect vulnerable people.
Today’s consultation proposes that, if introduced, requirements would apply to frontline health and care workers – those with face-to face contact with patients and clients though the delivery of services as part of a CQC regulated activity. The consultation is however seeking views on whether there are other professionals or volunteers deployed, but not undertaking direct treatment or personal care, that should also be included in the scope of the proposed policy.
Key points from the Consultation include:
- What roles are in scope for potential mandatory vaccination: Those individuals who would be deployed to undertake direct treatment or personal care as part of a CQC regulated activity. As with social care, the requirement could extend to a wider cohort of staff such as those that prepare and serve meals, those moving patients or clients on trolleys or wheelchairs (porters), or reception and administration staff.
- How would this requirement be implemented? The Government would have a similar approach to the care home regulation (Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021), and would make an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.
- Possible exemptions? There are likely to be exemptions based on medical grounds which would be in line with the Green Book on Immunisation against infectious disease and the JCVI which reflect clinical advice. The Public Sector Equality Duty Impact analysis indicates that making this a condition of work could impact certain groups but it is unclear whether exemptions could be extended.
- What if vaccinations are not accessible? The policy would be reviewed if significant obstacles would prevent eligible workers from accessing the flu and/or COVID-19 vaccination in a timely and accessible way.
- Is there an alternative approach? The consultation paper acknowledges that an alternative approach would be to continue to rely on non-statutory measures to encourage COVID-19 and flu vaccine uptake. The benefit of this approach would be to avoid a risk of potential impacts on staffing levels and also allow people to retain personal choice about vaccination.
- Boosters and mixed doses: Final JCVI advice on any booster programme is due shortly. Following this advice, the Government will consider the incorporation of any booster dose, in addition to the primary dosing schedule, within the requirement of a complete course. The Government will also consider whether to amend the care home regulations as necessary to ensure a single, consistent approach across the health and social care sector as this is currently not recognised under the care home regulations.
- The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 22 October 2021 and can be completed online at: Introduction - Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector (dhsc.gov.uk).
- Following the six week consultation a decision is expected to be published “this winter”.
- Although there is already a “longstanding precedent” for vaccination requirement in NHS roles, there is still a variation in uptake for COVID-19 vaccination. It is important for employers to continue to inform, engage and consult with staff regarding the proposed mandatory requirements for vaccination.
- As with the mandatory vaccination for care home workers, it is likely that some employees will be concerned with the impact of this change and how this will affect their role, particularly where they have objections to the vaccine.
How can we support you?
We can provide:
- Our specialist health and social care employment team continue to provide briefing sessions for HR and management teams on the practical implications of the vaccination agenda and the implications for mandatory vaccination requirements.
- Assistance with drafting Vaccination Policies and training for managers.
- “Toolkits” to manage the inform, engage and persuade approach and for those staff who are non-compliant.
If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact Jodie Sinclair.