GPs visiting care homes will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from later this year, with the new law potentially also being extended to GP practice settings and the flu jab.
From October – subject to parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in ‘a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care’ must have two doses of a Covid vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.
The new legislation, which follows a public consultation into the matter, will also cover those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, the Government added.
And it said it will launch a further public consultation ‘in due course’ on whether or not to make Covid and flu vaccination ‘a condition of deployment in health and care settings’.
This was prompted by responses to the consultation which ‘made a case for extending this policy beyond care homes to other settings where people vulnerable to Covid-19 receive care, such as domiciliary care and wider healthcare settings’, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
It went on to stress it is ‘a complex issue’ and said it will be seeking a ‘wide range of perspectives’ from health and care staff about whether it should be introduced and how it could be implemented.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk.’
He added: ‘We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers.
‘This is the right thing to do and a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future. I’d urge anyone working in care homes to get their jab as soon as possible.’
The move comes as only 65% of older care homes in England are currently meeting the minimum level of staff uptake for one dose needed to reduce the risk of outbreaks in these high-risk care settings – falling to 44% of care homes in London, the DHSC said.
It also comes as the latest Public Health England data indicates that the Covid vaccination programme prevented 14,000 deaths and around 42,000 hospitalisations in older people in England up to the end of May.
NHS England has previously told Pulse it does not hold data on how many GPs are already fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but the number of unvaccinated GPs is expected to be low. The Government has previously said over 90% of all frontline healthcare workers have taken up their vaccination.
The GMC has also expressed that GPs have a duty to accept their vaccination, or they could investigation by the regulator. However this duty does not currently extend to GP practice staff.