The Government has launched a five-week consultation on requiring care home providers, caring for older adults, to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination.
The Department of Health and Social Care said experts on the social care working group of SAGE had advised that 80% of staff and 90% of residents needed to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19.
Only 53% of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold.
“This means nearly half of all care homes with older adult residents, home to 150,000 vulnerable people, don’t meet SAGE’s recommended vaccination thresholds for care homes and staff,” the DHSC said.
It added that currently the staff vaccination rate is below 80% in 89 local authority areas – more than half – and all 32 London boroughs. There are 27 local authority areas with a staff vaccination rate below 70%.
The consultation can be viewed here. It closes on 21 May 2021.
The DHSC said it was planning to implement the policy through an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. It proposes to insert the requirement as a new provision in the fundamental standards in Part 3 of the Regulations, "most likely into regulation 12 (which deals with safe care and treatment) as a supplement to regulation 12(2)(h), which requires that, as part of providing safe care and treatment, providers must assess the risk of, and prevent, detect and control the spread of, infections, including those that are healthcare associated".
The Department will also be amending the Code of Practice on Infection Prevention and Control and its associated guidance, which is issued by the Secretary of State under section 21 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 and to which providers must have regard when complying with their obligations under regulation 12 of the Regulations. Draft amendments to the Code of Practice have been published alongside this consultation (see Annex A).
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of COVID-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.
“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.
“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”
This will not include those who can provide evidence of a medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination.
The DHSC noted that some providers were already implementing similar policies, and suggested that the consultation would help inform decision-making around how the change could be implemented and whether respondents thought it would be beneficial.