The government has published its response to its consultation on making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment for workers in care homes in England and has confirmed that it will now bring forward regulations to implement a mandatory vaccination requirement to protect all care home residents who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19. These regulations, which will amend the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, will require all service providers of nursing and personal care regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), in care homes in England, to allow entry to the premises only to those who can demonstrate evidence of having had a complete course of an authorised COVID-19 vaccine (or evidence that they are medically exempt from vaccination).
The requirement will only apply indoors and will exclude residents, friends or relatives of residents who are visiting, persons providing emergency assistance or urgent maintenance work in the care home, and those under the age of 18.
The consultation response also lists three key changes to the proposals set out in the original consultation document:
- extending the scope of the policy to all CQC-registered care homes in England which provide accommodation for persons who require nursing or personal care, not just those with residents over the age of 65
- extending the vaccination requirement to all persons who enter a care home building, regardless of their role, rather than just care home staff and volunteers. This will therefore include other healthcare professionals, tradespeople, hairdressers, beauticians and CQC inspectors, but will not apply to people who only work in the outdoor surrounding grounds of care home premises
- widening of the proposed exclusions.
If approved by Parliament, there will be a 16-week grace period from when the regulations are made to when they come into force to enable staff who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take up the vaccine, which means the mandatory vaccination requirement is likely to apply from October 2021.
A further consultation will be launched shortly on whether to make COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment in other health and social care settings.