Vaccination will be mandatory for healthcare workers and CQC inspectors visiting care homes, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed.
The regulation – announced last week (16 June) and due to be enforced from October – will mandate that anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they are medically exempt, the DHSC said.
It follows a Government consultation, which received more than 13,500 responses after it launched in April.
The consultation had originally sought to apply the regulation only to care homes looking after people aged 65 or older. However, the DHSC said that there was ‘significant support for broadening the scope of the policy to include all those coming into close contact with residents’.
It said: ‘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.’
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of adult social care at CQC, told Management in Practice that the CQC will work with the DHSC to ensure the guidance is implemented ‘fairly and proportionately’.
She said: ‘We would look to hold registered managers to account in a way which is proportionate. However, I also want to recognise that the majority of providers are working to comply with guidance and ensure everyone has access to a vaccine.’
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock, health secretary, said that although staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised as part of the Covid vaccine campaign, ‘we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk’.
‘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,’ he said.
The regulation is currently still subject to Parliamentary approval and a 16-week grace period.
Minimum level of staff uptake not met
As of 16 June, 1.2 million (78%) social care workers have received a vaccine.
However, only 65% of care homes with older residents in England are meeting the recommended minimum level of staff uptake, dropping to 44% in London.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advises an uptake rate for one dose of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in each care home.
The Government launched a consultation in April after it was found that the staff vaccination rate was below this 80% threshold in 89 local authority areas.
At the time, the proposal was described as ‘the wrong approach and a massive distraction’, with the NHS Confederation telling Management in Practice that health leaders are ‘unlikely to welcome a move to mandating the vaccine for NHS staff’.
Despite this, the DHSC confirmed a further consultation will be launched on whether to extend this to other health and social care settings, with Covid-19 and flu vaccinations becoming a condition of deployment.
The DHSC said this was a ‘complex issue’ and that it was considering ‘a wide range of perspectives’ across the sector.
Emphasis on communication with staff
Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said that managers in the health sector are ‘committed to supporting their staff to feel confident to get vaccinated’.
‘Any announcement to make the vaccination mandatory for social care workers will also have an impact on NHS staff, especially those who provide healthcare in social care settings,’ he said.
‘Our members will continue to place an emphasis on education and communication with their staff, something that remains crucially important even where the government insists on mandatory vaccination.’
He added that the Confederation will work with trade unions to address members’ concerns and to ensure the implementation ‘of any decision is handled sensitively going forward’.