GPs who visit care home residents aged over 65 could become subject to mandatory Covid vaccination, under proposals posed in a Government consultation.
In the consultation, launched last week (14 April), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it intends for all staff who work in care homes ‘supporting at least one older adult over the age of 65’ to require mandatory Covid vaccination.
While this would only apply to workers and volunteers deployed in the care home on a full or part-time basis, the consultation added that the policy should ‘arguably’ extend to visiting health and care workers as well.
The document said: ‘There is further consideration needed about whether we extend the requirement to include those people who come to the care home to provide professional services, or other care and support. Arguably, this policy should extend to visiting professionals, in particular those who provide close personal care, such as health and care workers.’
Consultation respondents are being urged to respond to the question: ‘Which people working or visiting in an older adult care home should be covered by the scope of the policy?’
With one of the options reading: ‘Health professionals who visit the care home regularly and provide close personal care to people living in the care home.’
The DHSC also hinted that the requirement for mandatory Covid vaccinations could be extended to other healthcare settings in the future.
It said: ‘There are many other settings across adult social care and health, where people most at risk from Covid-19 are being cared for in high risk, closed settings. We will keep this policy under review on a continuing basis and consider whether in due course it is necessary to extend the policy to other parts of the adult social care and health sectors.’
The news comes as the most recent statistics showed an uptake rate of 78.9% for Covid vaccination among eligible care home workers, although the DHSC said this uptake was subject to ‘significant’ regional and local variation. In all, 89 local authorities had reported a vaccination rate below 80% – defined by SAGE as the required level to keep patients safe.
The consultation document said: ‘Therefore, there remains a strong case for introducing a new requirement in order to make very high-risk environments as safe from the devastating effects of Covid-19 as possible.’
According to the consultation document, the Government is considering the best way for people to prove that they have been vaccinated, which ‘may involve, for example, showing vaccination status on a mobile phone app’.
Health 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.’
It comes as Pulse revealed in March that the GMC considers that GPs have a ‘professional duty’ to take up their Covid vaccination, with the potential for individual refusals to become subject to fitness-to-practise investigation.
At the time, figures showed uptake of more than 90% among NHS front line health care workers.