The Government will reportedly announce it is to be mandatory for care home workers to have a Covid-19 vaccination – and is considering extending the move to all NHS staff.
It is understood care staff will be given 16 weeks to have the jab – or face being redeployed away from frontline care or losing their jobs.
This comes after a five-week consultation, which closed on 26 May, on the controversial proposal for care home staff working with older adult residents. The consultation did not include staff working with younger disabled or vulnerable adults.
The Guardian yesterday evening reported that ministers will announce the changes in the next few days. The newspaper also understands the Government will launch two further consultations into making Covid-19 and flu jabs mandatory for NHS staff.
This is despite care home leaders warning Nursing in Practice the requirement could worsen existing recruitment and retention problems.
In April, Mike Padgham, Independent Care Group chair and owner of Saint Cecilia’s Care Services in Yorkshire, told Nursing in Practice that ‘no one should be forced to receive the vaccine’ and warned the requirement could ‘be a barrier to recruitment and retention’ in the already struggling sector.
The Government consultation paper on the change suggested employers could ‘redeploy’ unvaccinated staff to a non-care home setting or end their employment. But Mr Padgham pointed out that providers have ‘extremely limited’ options for redeploying staff who refuse the vaccine.
Louise Brady, a clinical development lead at the Royal British Legion care homes, also argued at the time that ‘continuous, clear and positive messaging’ around vaccination is instead needed across social care and echoed fears of ‘massive workforce implications of the decision’.
However, George Coxon, a care home owner based in Devon, agreed with the proposals, adding that they are needed to stop staff who ‘deviate from what would be regarded as safe and best practice’ working with older adults.
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green suggested that the vaccine should also be ‘mandatory for the NHS’ and ‘those working in other care home settings’ if made compulsory for older adult care home staff.
The National Care Forum in the past has raised concerns about introducing mandatory vaccinations for care home staff. It has said it could be pointless‘when older people are very likely to experience care and treatment interventions from health staff and a range of other professionals’.
The Government said the proposals will not include those who can provide evidence of a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has recommended that 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid outbreaks.
But the latest data, released yesterday, shows only 70.2% of older adult care home staff are fully vaccinated, while only 40.5% homes have at least 80% of their staff and 90% of their residents vaccinated with both doses.
A sub-committee paper drafted by the Department of Health and Social Care, and leaked to the Telegraph in March, predicted that ‘large’ numbers of social care workers may quit if the change is made and warned lawsuits on human rights grounds could be possible.
Nursing in Practice has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.