Mandatory Covid and flu vaccines for wider care staff to be considered

Proposals to implement compulsory Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for staff in all frontline health and care settings are to be consulted on.

A six-week consultation will be launched by the government today looking at whether requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers: those in contact with patients and people receiving care. A final decision is expected this winter.

It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services. The consultation will also seek views on whether flu vaccines should be a requirement for health and care workers.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on Tuesday (14 September) it was ‘highly likely’ plans would be implemented.

New legislation comes into force on Thursday 11 November that only requires all adult care home staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they are medically exempt. Care home staff have until next week (Thursday 16 September) to get their first vaccination or be forced to redeploy or lose their job.

The government said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) social care working group has advised there is a scientific case to have similar approaches to vaccination offers and support in NHS inpatient settings as there will be in care homes, given the similarly close and overlapping networks between residents or patients and workers of all kinds in both.

The consultation will seek views on the proposals, its scope, and any potential impact it could have on staffing and safety such as reducing staff sickness absence.

A government impact statement in July estimated around 40,000 workers in care homes could leave their roles due to not being vaccinated.

Latest figures show 81.7% of homecare workers have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 69.4% have been double dosed. However, the United Kingdom Homecare Association is concerned mandatory vaccinations will likely result in a ‘substantial loss’ of the workforce, potentially at least 20%.

Its chief executive Dr Jane Townson said: ‘UKHCA strongly supports vaccination of the homecare workforce and we lobbied hard, right from the beginning, to enable ease of access to vaccinations.

‘Right now, we are experiencing the most extreme challenges in recruitment and retention in history, at a time of rising demand for homecare. We feel it’s very important to balance the mitigated risk of infection with the risk of unavailability of care at home for highly dependent older and disabled people.

‘Our belief is that persuasion will be more effective than compulsion at encouraging vaccination without losing vital workforce capacity.’

However, Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said: ‘This was something promised “within the coming weeks” when the government response to the consultation on residential adult social care services was published in July.

‘The delay in the publication of today’s consultation has heavily impacted recruitment and retention within the adult social care sector, with residential care staff transferring over to homecare or the NHS.

‘Earlier this week Care England wrote to minister of state for social care to emphasise our serious and growing concern in relation to the absence of this consultation and we are pleased that our concerns have been listened to.’