The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has confirmed that Covid-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all staff working in care homes, unless they are medically exempt.
The news comes as data suggests that only 65% of care homes in England are currently meeting the minimum level of staff vaccine uptake, falling to 44% of care homes in London, the DHSC said.
If staff refuse to be vaccinated, they could be redeployed to another area of care or lose their job altogether.
Mr Hancock has said this is a necessary step, as although the vast majority of care home staff are now fully vaccinated, not all of them are. He said: “Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk.
“This is the right thing to do and a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future. I’d urge anyone working in care homes to get their jab as soon as possible.”
The new rules will also be extended to others who are visiting care homes, such as GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Although it won’t apply to family members and friends who are visiting loved ones.
The new rules could be extended to all NHS staff
There will also be a consultation over whether these new rules will be extended to all members of NHS and other healthcare staff. Ministers will also discuss whether to make the winter flu jab compulsory too.
The controversial topic has divided health and social care workers, with some agreeing it is necessary to keep the most vulnerable safe, while others believe it will cause many to quit their jobs.
This is a major concern, as care homes typically struggle to recruit enough people as it is. As for the NHS, staff are already suffering from burnout and fatigue from the pandemic. As a result of this, the BMA have warned that compulsory vaccines could cause many healthcare professionals to leave the NHS altogether.
The news comes as the delta variant continues to rapidly spread across the UK, with more than 42,000 cases across the four nations and infections doubling every 9 days or so.
While 30 million people are now fully vaccinated, the government is now accelerating the vaccine programme in order to get as many people vaccinated as quick as possible.
“Any targeting of mandatory vaccination should be proportionate and appropriate to specific areas where take-up rates remain lower”
In response to the Government’s decision, Councillor David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This is a highly sensitive and complex issue, which reflects the wide range of views from across social care and it remains absolutely vital that we all continue current efforts to encourage voluntary take-up of the vaccine.
“Councils are already working very closely with local health and care partners to remove existing barriers to take-up, such as providing greater access and tailoring information to address specific concerns, which may well help reach necessary levels of vaccination on a voluntary basis.
“Any targeting of mandatory vaccination should be proportionate and appropriate to specific areas where take-up rates remain lower. It is only right that care workers are treated the same as their NHS counterparts and we are pleased that government has listened to our feedback about extending this to the health workforce, as any suggestion of being singled out could have adverse consequences for recruitment and retention of the care workforce. We will respond to the new consultation once it is published.
“Care providers will find this new requirement challenging. The care workforce should also be supported through other measures, such as through increased pay or improved terms and conditions, which could form part of a long-term, sustainable solution for adult social care.
“We will read the Government’s full response to the original consultation in detail to see if it sufficiently addresses the concerns and comments raised by our members.”