Sector leaders are furious MPs have approved mandatory vaccinations for care home staff in England, suggesting the Government has not assessed the policy adequately.
The vote on the new rules passed yesterday by 319 to 246 in the House of Commons – ahead of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) releasing an impact assessment on the move.
It means anyone working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England must have two vaccine doses from October, unless they have a medical exemption.
Care minister Helen Whately told MPs yesterday the assessment was being ‘worked on’. She added: ‘We will share it with colleagues as soon as we can.’
But Conservative MP William Wragg suggested the Government was lying that an impact assessment even existed and pointed to a document from the DHSC published before the vote.
Mr Wragg stated the DHSC document said: ‘A full impact assessment of the costs and benefits of this instrument is available from the Department of Health.’
He said: ‘I contend [the impact assessment] does not exist… If that is proven to be the case then I’m afraid the minister will be in a tricky position if she contends it does and if it doesn’t – it is a disgrace.’
In response, Ms Whately reiterated that the assessment was ‘being worked on’. She added: ‘That is all I can say on that particular point.’
Mike Padgham, chair of industry body the Independent Care Group and owner of Saint Cecilia’s Care Services in Yorkshire, told Nursing in Practice that without an impact assessment the Government might not ‘know the facts’.
He said he was ‘puzzled about how to redeploy’ vaccine hesitant staff. He added: ‘You can’t just make jobs up. It’s a headache for care homes.’
Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund thinktank, said on Twitter that mandating the policy ‘by law but refusing to share an impact assessment’ is ‘not the way to persuade hesitant care workers to get vaccinated’.
The new rules will apply to all staff directly employed by the home or provider, as well as agency workers or volunteers deployed in the home. Anyone visiting the home to work – such as healthcare workers, tradespeople and hairdressers – must also follow the new regulations.
A DHSC spokesperson told Nursing in Practice that if a care home staff member eligible for the vaccine does not comply with the new guidelines, ‘they may be asked to find alternative employment that does not involve working in a care home’.
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 8 July, shows only 75.1% of older adult care home staff are fully vaccinated, while 86.2% have had one dose. However, 95.9% of eligible residents have at least one dose, while 93% have received both doses.