Staff in care homes may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine, Government says

Consultation launched on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for staff in care homes with older adult residents in England.

15/04/21

Staff in care homes may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine, Government says

The Government has launched a consultation on making COVID vaccination a condition of work for people who are deployed in care homes with older adult residents in England.

Making vaccines a condition of deployment would help to further protect older people living in care homes, the Government says.

Some providers are already implementing similar policies, such as Barchester Healthcare, who said last month that staff will not be able to work without a COVID-19 vaccine after April 23.

Dr Pete Calveley, Chief Executive of Barchester Healthcare, said they had not introduced the policy lightly, but taken the view that providing safe care for those they care for is their “paramount obligation”.

“Barchester believes the vaccination programme has transformed the outlook for the vulnerable residents in older people care homes, a significant proportion of whom will not acquire full immunity despite being vaccinated,” Dr Calveley said.

“As the Chief Medical Officer has said, it is a professional duty for care home staff to accept the vaccine unless there is a medical reason they should not.

“As time has progressed, the safety, efficacy and transmission-reduction evidence has become ever stronger, which supports our initial view.

“For those reasons we support the proposal by the DHSC to open a consultation on this important matter and strongly encourage other providers to support this proposal.”

Experts on the social care working group of SAGE advise that 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19.

However, only 53% of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold.

The Government says this means 150,000 vulnerable people are currently in care homes which don’t meet SAGE’s recommended vaccination thresholds for care homes and staff.

Currently the staff vaccination rate is below 80% in 89 local authority areas – more than half – and all 32 London boroughs. There are 27 local authority areas with a staff vaccination rate below 70%.

The vaccine has already had a significant impact on reducing hospitalisations and deaths, with the Government estimating that more than 10,000 lives have been saved between December and March.

A 5-week consultation was launched on Wednesday (14 April) looking at requiring care home providers caring for older adults to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination to further protect residents who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and staff.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said we have already seen the “grave effects” COVID-19 has had on vulnerable groups.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives,” Hancock said.

“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”

Those who can provide evidence of a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination will not be affected by this, the Government confirmed.

The consultation will seek views on the proposal, its scope, any potential impact it could have on staffing and safety as well as how it is implemented and who could be exempt.

Staff, providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are being urged to take part to have their views heard with a final decision expected this summer.

Chair of the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Taskforce, Sir David Pearson said it was “absolutely vital those who have not yet taken the opportunity to have their vaccine do so to keep themselves and those they care for safe.”

NHS England has been running a minimum 4-visit schedule for each older adult care home and with hundreds of vaccination centres across the country to make vaccinations as easy as possible.

All eligible care homes have been visited and vaccines offered to staff and residents, with the vast majority of homes having now had repeat visits.

Vaccination is a safe and effective way of protecting people from infectious disease, the Government says, adding that vaccines help prevent the most serious symptoms and there is growing evidence the vaccine also reduces transmission, making having a vaccine even more important.

The Government believes requiring care home providers to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination will increase uptake in these areas and assist in helping all care providers reach the required rate of uptake to keep people safe and save lives.

Responding to the announcement James Bullion, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said he acknowledged that significant progress has been made on keeping people safe from COVID-19, but there was more to be done.

“We welcome the announcement of the consultation on what is a difficult question for the Government and all involved, but it is important that whatever is decided does not adversely impact the staffing numbers needed for safe and high-quality care.”

Contribute to the ‘making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes’ consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/making-vaccination-a-condition-of-deployment-in-older-adult-care-homes

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