Covid: Staff will have to be vaccinated to work in care homes

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan reports on how some care providers fear of staff shortages with the latest government announcement on jabs

Care home staff will be required to have coronavirus vaccinations “to protect residents” the government has announced, amid fears the policy could lead to staff leaving the sector.

The requirement, which is subject to parliamentary approval and a 16-week grace period, will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider, those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.

Others coming into care homes to work, such as tradespeople, hairdressers, beauticians and CQC inspectors, must also follow the regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MP's on Wednesday that care home staff will have to get Covid vaccinations "to protect residents".

Some care home staff have signalled their intention to resign following reports that the government will soon make it mandatory for them to have the Covid-19 vaccine.

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The CEO of Blackadder Corporation, which runs six homes in the Midlands, has said a number of his employees object to jabs being made compulsory for them.

Geoff Butcher said he also knows of someone who has now decided not to get the vaccine “on principle”.Health Secretary Matt Hancock is known to be in favour of the move, while England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said doctors and care workers have a “professional responsibility” to protect their patients.

Ministers have held a consultation into the controversial proposal as a measure to protect the most vulnerable from contracting Covid-19.

It comes as Pimlico Plumbers announced it too would require mandatory vaccination for staff, the company had already said it would not hire anybody new who was not vaccinated.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not deny a report by the Guardian saying that ministers will approve the measure for social care workers in England.

Under the plans, staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs, according to the newspaper.

Mr Butcher said staffing issues are the “biggest concern” for the care sector and that the government move “will add hugely to the problems in recruiting”. Mr Butcher, who is based outside Leamington Spa, said he is “pleased” that more than 90% of staff at his homes have been vaccinated, but that “equally I understand why some of the staff haven’t”.

He said: “It’s already happened in one of my homes, that one person has said ‘OK, on principle, because they’re making this compulsory I was going to (get a vaccine) but now I’m not’.” He added that two staff members have said: "If this happens and you implement it, please take it as today is the day I give my resignation". He said there are some “conscientious objectors”, but the main issues over vaccine hesitancy appear to be religious or cultural concerns and women who are worried about fertility issues. A DHSC spokesperson said: “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives – with millions of health and care staff vaccinated.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she couldn't comment on the specific consultation but added "fundamentally we do need to ensure that care home staff are vaccinated"

“Our priority is to make sure people in care homes are protected and we launched the consultation to get views on whether and how the government might take forward a new requirement for adult care home providers, looking after older people, to only deploy staff who have had a Covid-19 vaccination or have an appropriate exemption.”

She added that the department’s response to the consultation will be published “in due course”.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she couldn't comment on the specific consultation but added "fundamentally we do need to ensure that care home staff are vaccinated."

She told ITV News: "It is important that we protect the most vulnerable in our care homes and it is important that staff do have those vaccinations to make sure that we’re curtailing the spread of Covid-19."

Multiple care groups and unions have raised concerns about mandatory vaccination.

Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents care homes in Yorkshire, said he fears people will be put off entering the social care sector.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he is in favour of “persuasion rather than coercion or compulsion”, adding: “What I’m worried about is the recruitment crisis already in social care, is that we’re frightened that this is going to put more people off coming into social care and that’s going to be difficult.

“I’m also worried about any legal action against providers, because if you’ve only got 16 weeks and you lose your job, where does that put people? We’re already short of staff.”

Critics of the proposal have raised ethical queries and have warned that compulsion could harden opposition in those who are hesitant to be vaccinated.

The UK’s human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has however concluded it is “reasonable” to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated.

But it did advise that safeguards should be included to minimise the risk of discrimination by including exemptions including for staff who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Considerations are ongoing over whether to extend the measure to NHS staff.