Extension of Mandatory Vaccination to health and social care workers
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published its response to the consultation on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for health and social care workers. It confirms that vaccination will become mandatory for those with face-to-face contact with patients and service users, unless they are exempt. Implementing regulations will come into force on 1 April 2022 after a 12-week grace period subject to the passage or regulations and Parliamentary approval.
The government has decided that providers of CQC-regulated activities in the health and social care sector must only deploy individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to roles where they have direct, face-to-face contact with patients and service users. Full vaccination means that individuals must have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccination in line with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance. Front-line workers such as doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers, as well as non-clinical workers not directly involved in patient care, such as receptionists, ward clerks, porters and cleaners, will be caught by the new rules. The requirements will apply whether a regulated activity is delivered through agency workers, volunteers or trainees or contracted to another provider. For health and care workers who may be exempt, the CQC-registered person must have seen evidence of their medical exemption before they can deliver care.
This is an extension to the existing rules, which come into force on 11th November requiring individuals that work within a care home to be fully vaccinated in order to be deployed.
There is a longstanding precedent for vaccination in NHS roles. Workplace health and safety and occupational health policies are already in place to ensure those undertaking exposure-prone procedures are vaccinated against Hepatitis B – such as surgeons, because of the potential health risk. The vast majority of NHS and other domiciliary care workers have received both of their vaccinations but there remain a large number of relevant staff that are yet to take up the offer of vaccination.
It’s yet to be seen what will happen with the ongoing Judicial Review and challenge to the original regulations but for now, relevant employers should assume that staff need to be vaccinated and put in place procedures for obtaining necessary evidence and supporting staff that are not vaccinated to take up the offer.
Author: Sarah Edwards, Senior Employment Law Solicitor