And just like that, it looks like the relationship between the health and social care sector and mandatory vaccinations may well be over. The Government has announced that in light of “dramatic changes” since the original decision was made, the statutory mandated vaccination requirement is no longer proportionate given the less severe omicron variant and the impact on the existing staffing crisis in the sector.
It’s been a difficult three months since 11 November 2021 when the Health and Social Care Act (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/891) came into force requiring that all workers in Care Quality Commission regulated care homes in England had to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Employees who refused to be vaccinated, and who did not have a medical exemption, had to be redeployed or dismissed. It is estimated that as many as 40,000 staff left the sector as a result. Those Regulations were followed in January with a second statutory instrument which introduced the same requirement to ‘Regulated Activities’ under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 effectively extending the vaccine requirement to healthcare workers across the board which would have required first dose vaccines to be administered by 3 February 2022 to ensure full vaccination by the implementation date of April 2022.
Sajid Javid announced to Parliament on 31 January 2022 that the ‘vaccine’ Regulations would be revoked, subject to consultation and parliamentary approval. He confirmed that unvaccinated care home workers dismissed from their roles, may choose to work there again, without reinstated continuity of employment.
In the light of that proposed change, NHS England has written to healthcare providers requesting that they do not serve notice of termination on unvaccinated NHS and healthcare workers. The Department of Health and Social Care’s impact assessment found that as many as 73,000 NHS staff in England were at risk of losing their jobs if the statutory mandated vaccination requirement was implemented as planned.
The Government, however, has not abandoned vaccinations with Javid telling MPs that it “remains our best line of defence” against the virus, but the risk to patient safety by triggering the loss of key personnel from the already understaffed healthcare industry might not be a risk the UK is able to take.
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