Earlier this year the government consulted on making coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for staff working in care homes for older people. We submitted a sector response based on feedback from our members. We raised the difficulty of identifying care homes for older people as a separate category, and highlighted the practical implications of such a policy.
The Statutory Instrument will make it mandatory for anyone working (including visiting staff such as hairdressers, tradespeople and entertainers) in a CQC registered care or nursing home to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus unless subject to a medical exemption. A number of concerns about the legislation were raised in Parliament including the lack of clarity and practical detail about how the legislation is to operate; the absence of any assessment of the impact on the care home workforce and care homes in general and the confusing analysis of current vaccination levels in the sector.
From October, all staff directly employed by the care home or employed through an agency, as well as all volunteers, will need to be fully vaccinated with both doses of the vaccine, unless they have a medical exemption. There will be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work.
There will be a 16-week grace period from when the regulations are made to when they come into force to enable staff who haven’t been vaccinated to take up the vaccine. Government has stated that guidance will be issued in due course but providers should start discussing the new legislation and timetable with staff now. A majority of adult social care staff will be eligible for their second dose eight weeks after their first.
Any staff or visiting professionals entering a care home would need to provide evidence of their vaccination or exemption status. The government is exploring the use of the NHS App for demonstrating vaccination status, with web-based and non-digital alternatives provided for people who do not have access to a smartphone. Service providers would need to ensure that they have a process of demonstrating to the CQC that they are compliant with the regulations. Further details will be outlined in guidance in due course.
The NHF will continue to represent members’ views on this issue including on the practical support needed by organisations to implement the policy.
This summer, the government will launch a new consultation on extending compulsory coronavirus and flu vaccinations to the NHS and other health and care settings. There are no plans to extend mandatory vaccinations beyond health and care workers.
If you have any questions about compulsory vaccinations, or any other changes to lockdown guidelines, please get in touch with us using the contact details below.