Covid vaccination will be a ‘condition of deployment’ for all public-facing staff in England’s health services from April next year, the Government has announced.
The delay is to allow time for the health sector to implement it and to ‘help minimise risks to workforce capacity over the winter period’, the Government said.
The mandate covers non-clinical workers who, while not directly providing patient care, are still in direct, face-to-face contact with patients ‘as part of a CQC-regulated activity within scope of the requirements’, such as ‘receptionists, ward clerks, porters and cleaners’.
Healthcare workers will have to provide evidence they have been fully vaccinated, subject to ‘limited exceptions’ and it will be up to the CQC-regulated contractor to ensure this is the case.
The flu jab will not be made compulsory at this stage, because the programme only runs October to March.
‘Due to the need to balance this with the time necessary for health and social care to implement the regulations, the Government has decided not to introduce vaccination requirements for flu at this time,’ it said.
However, the flu vaccination could be made mandatory next year, as the Government said it will review the decision ‘following this winter and ahead of winter 2022/23’.
The details were unveiled in the response to the Government consultation on proposals, which closed at the end of last month.
‘These regulations will protect vulnerable people and individual workers in health and social care settings, including hospitals, GP practices, and where care is delivered in a person’s home,’ the consultation response said.
Announcing the measures to MPs in Parliament today, health secretary Sajid Javid said he wanted to ‘thank’ both NHS Trusts and PCNs ‘for all the support and the encouragement that they have given their staff to take up the vaccine’.
But he added: ‘Having considered the consultation responses the advice of my officials and NHS leaders – including the chief executive of the NHS – I have concluded that all those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated.
‘We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS, and of course protect the NHS itself.
‘Only those colleagues who can show they’re fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can be employed or engaged in those settings.’
Meanwhile, on flu, he said: ‘We also consulted on flu vaccines, but having considered views that we should focus on Covid-19 we will not be introducing any requirements on flu jabs at this stage – but we will keep this under review.’
The Government has previously said that GPs and specialists will have to ‘clinically review’ each and every application for a Covid vaccination exemption.
What does the vaccine mandate mean in practice?
- The Government will introduce regulations which will ‘only allow providers of CQC-regulated activities to deploy individuals who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to roles where they interact with patients and service users’.
- These will ‘require workers who have direct, face to face contact with service users to provide evidence that they have been vaccinated, subject to limited exceptions’.
- This will include ‘front-line workers, as well as non-clinical workers not directly involved in patient care but who nevertheless may have direct, face to-face contact with patients, such as receptionists, ward clerks, porters and cleaners’.
- Those exempt from the mandate are: under the age of 18; clinically exempt from vaccination; have taken part or are currently taking part in a clinical trial for a Covid vaccine; those who do not have direct, face to face contact with a service user (for example, those providing care remotely, such as through triage or telephone consultations or managerial staff working in sites apart from patient areas); those providing care as part of a shared lives agreement.
- It will be ‘the responsibility of the CQC-registered person, either the service provider or registered manager, to ensure that they only deploy those who have provided evidence that they have been vaccinated’. 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’.
- The regulations are subject to being passed by MPs in Parliament and added to the 2008 Health and Social Care Act, which ‘requires registered persons to ensure the provision of safe care and treatment’.
Source: Government consultation response