Mandatory Vaccination in Care Homes: Operational Guidance released
The Department of Health and Social Care has now issued updated operational guidance in relation to mandatory vaccination in care homes. The guidance is very comprehensive and covers exemptions and issues relating to the Equality Act 2010. Employers who will affected by the new vaccine requirement are strongly encouraged to read the article, as are those outside of the sector but who have concerns about their own employees’ vaccination status.
The guidance, which is very comprehensive can be accessed at the link at the bottom of the article, makes the following headline points in relation to the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (‘the Regulations’).
- From 11 November 2021, all care home workers and anyone entering a care home, will need to be fully vaccinated unless they are exempt.
- We are currently in a so-called 16 week “grace period” to give affected individuals the chance to be vaccinated. The 16 September is the last date for people to get their first dose of the vaccine so that they are fully vaccinated by the time the regulations come into force on 11 November.
- The Regulations cover service providers, registered persons, local authorities, workers (including agency staff) and residents of CQC-regulated care homes which provide accommodation for persons who require nursing and personal care. Professionals and tradespeople who enter such settings are also covered.
- The vaccination requirement only applies to people who go inside a care setting (the definition of ‘care home’ does not include any surrounding grounds). As long as someone is not entering the building, they would not need to show vaccination status.
- The registered person is responsible for ensuring that everyone who enters their care home is either vaccinated or exempt. The registered person will be the person registered with the CQC as a manager or service provider.
- Booster doses are not currently included in the regulations, but managers are strongly advised to encourage workers to take up booster vaccines if eligible, and a provision for booster vaccines may be added to the regulations in the future.
- If someone is a resident or being admitted as a resident, they and an accompanying friend or relative will not require proof of vaccination. The regulations require prospective residents and their families visiting care homes to provide evidence of vaccination or medical exemption.
- If someone is entering the care home for emergency assistance for an incident in the care home itself, or in relation to an incident in a neighbouring building (for example if access is required to respond to a fire), they will not need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption.
- Friends, family (who also may be unpaid carers) and essential care givers will not need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption. Visits from family and friends are vital for the health and wellbeing of people living in care homes. It would be unjustifiably detrimental to residents to deprive them of contact with, and care from, their loved ones.
- If urgent maintenance work is only being done outside the care home and individuals carrying out maintenance do not need to enter the care home, then these individuals do not need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption. If work is required inside the care home, then individuals carrying out maintenance will need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption. However, if urgent maintenance work is required in the event of a risk to life or continuity of care, workers are exempt from these requirements.
This could include (but is not limited to):
- failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- dangerous electrical fault
- serious damage caused by fire, flood, storm or explosion
- burst water service
- serious roof leak
- gas leak
- any fault or damage in the care home that makes the care home unsafe or insecure
- a serious fault in a lift or staircase
Managers will be expected to keep a log of all urgent maintenance work during which people entered the home without showing proof of vaccination or medical exemption, and a short description of the incident for record keeping purposes.
- People do not need to show proof of vaccination or exemption if they are visiting a resident who is dying (that is in their last days of life) or they are providing comfort or support to a resident following the death of a relative or friend. Those performing spiritual rituals for a resident would therefore also not need to show proof of vaccination status. Funeral directors and their staff will have to show proof of vaccination or exemption when entering the care home.
- A person under the age of 18 does not have to provide evidence of vaccination or exemption before entering a care home. Frontline health and care staff aged 16 and over are eligible for a vaccine and should make sure they get a full course of a Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved COVID-19 vaccine before they turn 18.
- Visiting professionals who are under 18 will be able to enter the care home without showing proof of vaccination status, but may need to demonstrate proof that they are under 18. As soon as they turn 18, they will not be able to enter the residence until they have had a full course of an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- All students who enter the care residence as part of their studies will need to show proof of vaccination or exemption, unless they are under 18 or visiting as family or a friend of a resident.
- All volunteers who enter the care residence will need to show proof of vaccination or exemption, unless they are under 18.
- Anyone who enters a care home for a job interview must show proof of vaccination unless they are exempt. If someone intends to have the vaccination but is not yet vaccinated, the interview should take place outside of the care home or remotely (via video call or telephone).
- The regulations also apply to new staff recruited by the registered provider. It is important to note that only new recruits that have had a full course of an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine or are medically exempt from the requirement are eligible to work in the care home. Care homes should notify prospective staff of the requirement at the start of the application process and undertake appropriate checks, during the recruitment process, to ensure the individual is eligible to work in the care home. It will only be possible for a newly appointed member of staff to start working in the care home once they have provided evidence of their vaccination status or a medical exemption
If you would like to discuss the content or impact of the Regulations please contact a member of the Employment Team on 01274 864999 who will be happy to speak with you.