Last reviewed 10 November 2021

In September, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England published a consultation seeking views on whether or not to extend vaccination requirements to health and care settings for Covid-19 and also for flu.

Nearly 35,000 responses were submitted online and the Government has now published details of this feedback in documents available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/making-vaccination-a-condition-of-deployment-in-the-health-and-wider-social-care-sector.

These confirm that it intends to proceed with requirements in relation to Covid-19 vaccinations and that health and social care providers in England will be required to ensure that workers are fully vaccinated, unless they are exempt.

Ensuring the maximum number of NHS staff are vaccinated will, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said, help ensure the most vulnerable patients gain the greatest possible levels of protection against infection.

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 new 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.

This means, 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 therefore begin from 1 April, subject to parliamentary approval.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Despite significant resistance to the imposition of the law for CQC-regulated care homes in England, the Government is pressing ahead with its plans to expand the scope of making the Covid vaccine mandatory in wider healthcare settings.

Care homes will be relieved that the plans to make the flu vaccine mandatory have been shelved for now as they continue to deal with departure of valued employees who have not had the Covid vaccine.

The wider healthcare sector must start to prepare now for similar departures. Although the law is still subject to agreement from MPs, it is definitely on its way and HR processes must be managed carefully in order to both comply with the vaccine law and also navigate employment laws.