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Government To Introduce Covid-19 Vaccination As A Condition Of Deployment For All Frontline Health And Social Care Workers In England

10th November 2021

Health and social care providers in England will be required to ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health and social care workers, including volunteers who have face to face contact with service users, will need to provide.

evidence they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to be deployed, under new measures announced today.

Measure aims to ensure patients and staff are protected against infection.

Deadline for care home workers to be double jabbed is Thursday 11 November.

Almost 90% of NHS staff are already double jabbed

Health and social care providers in England will be required to ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are exempt, under plans announced by the Health and Social Care Secretary.

Ensuring the maximum number of NHS staff are vaccinated will help ensure the most vulnerable patients gain the greatest possible levels of protection against infection. Elderly people, those with disabilities and some seriously ill people in hospital face a higher risk from COVID-19 than the wider population, and are more likely to use health and care services more often.

The measures will also protect workers, which is important for hospital trusts where extensive unexpected absences can put added pressure on already hardworking clinicians providing patient care.

The vaccination programme has been successful in weakening the link between infection, hospitalisation and deaths. Findings from the REACT study have shown fully vaccinated people were estimated to have around 50% to 60% reduced risk of infection, including asymptomatic infection, compared to unvaccinated people.

The regulations will apply to health and social care workers who have direct, face-to-face contact with people while providing care - such as doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers, unless they are exempt.

They will also apply to ancillary staff such as porters or receptionists who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in their care. This will apply across the CQC-regulated health and social care sector.

The majority of NHS workers are already vaccinated, as over 92.8% have had their first dose and 89.9% have had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. In social care, 83.7% of domiciliary care workers have had their first dose and 74.6% have had both doses.

Latest published data shows, however, that over 103,000 NHS Trust workers and 105,000 domiciliary care workers have not been reported as fully vaccinated and the government is urging them to take up the offer now, to keep themselves and those they care for safe.

The requirements will come into force in the spring, subject to the passage of the regulations through Parliament. There will be a 12-week grace period between the regulations being made and coming into force to allow those who have not yet been vaccinated to have both doses. Enforcement would begin from 1 April, subject to parliamentary approval.

This will allow time for health and social care providers to prepare and encourage workers uptake before the measures are introduced.

There is a longstanding precedent for vaccination in NHS roles. Workplace health and safety and occupational health policies are already in place to ensure those undertaking exposure-prone procedures are vaccinated against Hepatitis B - such as surgeons, because of the potential health risk.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:Vaccines save lives and patient safety is paramount. Many of the people being treated in hospitals or cared for at home are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We have a responsibility to give patients and staff the best possible protection.

We have consulted closely with the sector and will introduce new regulations to ensure people working in healthcare are vaccinated from next spring.

I want thank everyone who works in health and social care for the amazing work they do. If you haven't come forward for your jab yet, please do so. We are determined to support you in this process.

The measure is an extension to previously announced regulations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment for staff working in CQC-registered care homes in England, which comes into force on 11 November 2021.

Vaccination remains the single strongest protection against COVID-19, and it is essential every health or social care worker takes up the offer of a vaccine to protect themselves, their colleagues and patients.

Data from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant. The analysis shows the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.

Affected workers will have the coming months to prepare and the government and NHS continues to work to increase uptake, including among groups where uptake is lower, and to make every effort to ensure NHS and social care workers have the support they need this winter and into the future.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive said:The NHS has always been clear that staff should get the life-saving covid vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients and the overwhelming majority have already done so.

Working with NHS organisations, we will continue to support staff who have not yet received the vaccination to take up the evergreen offer.

Vaccines are available free of charge and from thousands of vaccine centres, GP practices and pharmacies.

Around 98% of people live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre in England and vaccinations are taking place at sites including mosques, community centres and football stadiums.

There are more than 500 extra vaccination sites now compared to April this year, with 1,697 vaccination centres in operation in April 2021, and over 2,200 vaccination centres in operation now.

The NHS continues to take a targeted approach to improve uptake, as well as using the booster campaign as an opportunity to reengage staff. This includes extensive work with ethnic minority and faith networks, one to one conversations with line managers, and the use of walk-ins, pop-ups and other ways to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible.

Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care Deborah Sturdy said:We know that vaccines save lives which is why earlier this year we set out our plans to make vaccines a condition of deployment in care homes to protect those who are more vulnerable to this virus.

Today's announcement to extend these regulations will ensure all those who access regulated social care are afforded maximum protection from COVID-19.

I encourage anyone working in social care who has not yet had their vaccine to come forward as soon as possible to protect yourselves, your colleagues and those you care for.

There are currently record numbers of nurses and doctors working in the NHS, with over 304,700 and 126,600 respectively.

The Spending Review also committed funding to keep building a bigger, better trained NHS workforce, including support for some of the biggest undergraduate intakes of medical students and nurses ever and reaffirming the government's commitment for 50,000 more nurses.

NHS staff are also benefiting from increased mental health support following the pandemic. The regulations will be published shortly.

While the policy will not apply to COVID-19 boosters or the flu vaccine at this time, the government will keep this under review, and if necessary, bring forward amendments to the regulations.

Health Secretary statement on Vaccines as a Condition of Deployment
Oral statement delivered to the House of Commons.

Mr Deputy Speaker, with permission, I'd like to make a statement on further steps we’re taking to keep this country safe from Covid-19.

We head into the winter months in a much stronger position than last year.

Of all the reasons for this progress, the greatest is unquestionably our vaccination programme.

Across the UK, the overwhelming majority of us have made the positive choice to accept the offer of vaccines against Covid-19.

Almost 8 in every 10 people over the age of 12 have chosen to be double jabbed and over 10 million people have now received their boosters or third jabs.

I’m grateful to colleagues across this House for their steadfast support of our national vaccination programme.

Despite the fantastic rates of uptake, we must all keep doing our bit to encourage eligible people to top-up their defences and to protect themselves this winter.

I understand that vaccination can of course be an emotive issue.

Most of us have taken this step to protect ourselves, to protect our families and to protect our country.

We have all seen, sadly, how Covid can devastate lives.

But we’ve also seen how jabs save lives and keep people out of hospital.

Our collective efforts have built a vast wall of defence for the British people helping us to move towards the normal way of life we’ve all been longing for.

The efforts of the British public have been phenomenal and those working in health and social care have been the very best of us.

Not only have they saved lives and kept people safe through their incredible work but they’ve done the same by choosing to get vaccinated.

And I want to thank NHS Trusts and Primary Care Networks for all the support and the encouragement that they have given their staff to take up the vaccine.

The latest figures show that 90 percent of NHS Trust staff have received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine although in some Trusts, the figure sits closer to 80 percent.

But Mr Deputy Speaker, while our health and social care colleagues are a cross-section of the nation at large there’s no denying that they carry a unique responsibility.

They have this responsibility because they are in close contact with some of the most vulnerable people in our society people that we know that are more likely to suffer serious health consequences if they get Covid-19.

So whether it’s in our care homes, or in our hospitals - or any other health or care setting the first duty of everyone working in health and social care is to avoid preventable harm to the people that they care for.

And not only that, they have a responsibility to do all they can to keep each other safe.

These twin responsibilities – to patients, and to each other they underline, once again, why a job in health or care is a job like no other.

So it cannot be business as usual when it comes to vaccination.

It’s why, from the very beginning of our national vaccination programme, we put health and care colleagues at the front of the line for Covid jabs.

And it’s why we’ve run two consultations exploring some of the other things that we might need to do.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the first consultation looked at whether we should require people working in care homes to be vaccinated - what’s called the "condition for deployment".

After careful consideration, we made vaccination against Covid-19 a condition for deployment in care homes from the 11th of November.

Since we announced this in parliament, the number of people working in care homes who have not had at least one dose has fallen from 88,000 to just 32,000 at the start of last month.

Our second consultation looked at whether we should extend this requirement to health and other social care settings including in NHS hospitals and independent healthcare providers.

Our six-week consultation received over 34,000 responses – and of course a broad range of views.

Support for making vaccination a condition for deployment was tempered with concerns that some people may choose to leave their posts if we went ahead with this.

I have carefully considered the responses and the evidence and I’ve concluded that the scales clearly tip on one side.

The weight of the data shows how our vaccinations have kept people safe and they have saved lives and this is especially true for vulnerable people in health and care settings.

And I’m mindful, not only of our need to protect human life but our imperative to protect the NHS and those services upon which we all rely.

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.

There will be two key exemptions:

for those who don’t have face-to-face contact with patients and the second for those who are medically exempt.
These requirements will apply across health and the wider social care settings that are regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we’re not the only country taking such steps: there are similar policies for specific workers in other countries around the world including the United States, France and Italy.

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.

Of course Mr Deputy Speaker, these decisions are not mine alone.

As with other nationally significant Covid legislation, Parliament will have its say and we intend to publish an Impact Assessment before any vote.

We plan to implement this policy through powers in the 2008 Health and Social Care Act which requires registered persons to ensure the provision of safe care and treatment.

I will shortly bring forward a draft statutory instrument amending these regulations before the House – just as we did with Care Homes.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this decision doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise concerns about workforce pressures this winter and indeed beyond as a result of some people perhaps choosing to leave their job because of the decision we’ve taken.

Of course I recognise that.

It’s with this in mind that we’ve chosen for the condition not to come into force until 12 weeks after parliamentary approval allowing time for remaining colleagues to make the positive choice to protect themselves and those around them and time for workforce planning.

Subject to parliamentary approval, we intend the enforcement of this condition to start on the 1st of April.

And we will continue to work closely across the NHS to manage workforce pressures.

More than that, Mr Deputy Speaker: we’ll continue to support and encourage those yet to get the vaccines, to do so.

At every point in our programme, we’ve made jabs easily accessible and worked with all communities to build trust and boost uptake.

That vital work will continue including engagement with communities where uptake is the lowest and1-2-1 conversations with all unvaccinated staff in the NHS and using the capacity of our national vaccination programme, like the walk-in centres and pop-up centres, all making it as easy as possible to get the jab.

And Mr Deputy Speaker, allow me to be clear: that no one, no one, in the NHS or care that is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled-out, or shamed.

That would be totally unacceptable.

This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, to protect their colleagues and of course to protect themselves.

The Chief Executive of the NHS will write to all NHS Trusts today to underline just how vital these vaccination efforts are.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I’m sure that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the heroic responses across health and care.

They have been the very best of us in the most difficult of days.

Care, compassion, and conscience continue to be their watchwords and I know that they will want to do the right thing.

Today’s decision is about doing right by them and doing right by everyone that uses the NHS.

So we protect patients in the NHS.

We protect colleagues in the NHS.

And we protect the NHS itself.

I commend this statement to the House.