People working in CQC-registered care homes will need to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated with both doses, the government announced last week.
New legislation means from October – subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.
It will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.
Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.
The responses to the consultation made a case for extending this policy beyond care homes to other settings where people vulnerable to COVID-19 receive care, such as domiciliary care and wider healthcare settings.
Based on this evidence, the government will launch a further public consultation in due course on whether or not to make COVID-19 and flu vaccination a condition of deployment in health and care settings. This is a complex issue and the government is looking for a wide range of perspectives from across the health and care sector about whether this should be introduced and how it could be implemented.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock 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.
“Through our consultation we have listened to the experiences and concerns of providers and people living and working in care homes to help shape our approach.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers.
“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.
“There will be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work.”
Data on vaccine effectiveness from Public Health England (PHE) indicates the COVID-19 vaccination programme has so far prevented 14,000 deaths and around 42,000 hospitalisations in older people in England (up to 30 May).
The new regulations follow an extensive consultation with the social care sector, staff, residents and their families on the issue.
The Social Care Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advises that an uptake rate for one dose of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in each individual care home setting is needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19.
While the majority of care home workers have now been vaccinated, only 65% of older care homes in England are currently meeting the minimum level of staff uptake for one dose needed to reduce the risk of outbreaks in these high-risk care settings – falling to 44% of care homes in London.
If approved by Parliament, 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. A majority of adult social care staff will be eligible for their second dose 8 weeks after their first.
People may not yet have taken up the offer of a vaccine for a number of reasons including availability, being within 28 days of having COVID-19 or for personal reasons.
The government response document to the consultation Making Vaccination a Condition of Deployment in Care Homes is available here.
Department of Health and Social Care June 2021