COVID–19 & mandatory vaccinations – a shot in the arm for the care sector?
According to recent statistics, approximately 31% of all registered deaths from COVID-19 were care home residents. This, coupled with low rates of vaccinated care workers in certain areas of the Country (in particular, London and the South East where the number of homes who have at least 80% of staff vaccinated is a mere 23% and 40% respectively) prompted the Government to introduce mandatory vaccinations for those entering care homes.
The Government has implement a new legislation which, by 11 November 2021, will require all CQC regulated care home providers to implement a new regime of mandatory vaccinations for almost all those working in or entering the home. The new legislation requires CQC regulated care homes providing nursing and personal care, not to allow anybody entry into a care home who has not been fully vaccinated unless they are;
- a resident;
- a friend or relative of the resident;
- exempt from vaccination on medical grounds;
- under 18; or
- it is reasonably necessary for the person to enter to provide emergency assistance or to carry out urgent maintenance.
As a means of demonstrating compliance, all providers will need to obtain evidence of vaccination (or exemption) and ensure that this information is readily available for inspection by the CQC.
Any failure to comply with this requirement exposes providers to the risk of being held in breach of regulation 12 (namely, the duty to provide safe care and treatment) and the risk of a significant financial penalty if convicted.
A positive step forward?
The results of the recent public consultation showed that the majority of respondents (57%) do not support the Government’s requirement to mandate vaccines in the care setting.
Whilst the response from the sector itself was more evenly mixed, there is a clear concern that this change in the law will prompt many carers to work leave the sector altogether and, for example, head to hospitality where they are literally crying out for staff. All of this comes at a time when there are already 112,000 care worker vacancies.
That being so, and whilst the requirement for mandatory vaccination is well intended, there is a real danger that this change in the law may well turn a crisis into a catastrophe.
The sad irony here, were this concern to materialise, is that providers would then, potentially, be exposed to allegations of failing to provide safe care and treatment and/or failing to ensure sufficient staffing numbers to meet basic care requirements in accordance with Regulation 18 of the Heath and Social Care Act 2008.
All in all, whilst the impact of mandatory vaccinations on the sector is still unclear, the challenges for care providers are going to be wide reaching. That being so, one can only hope that the regulator continues to support providers at this critical time and, knowing that the ability to recruit carers may well be hindered further, take a reasonable and balanced approach to enforcement.
Contact our Compliance & Regulatory team today if you have any queries about mandatory vaccinations or if you require advice and representation in response to any regulatory action taken by the CQC. You can read more about the actions care homes need to take to implement this mandatory vaccine requirement here.
If you would like to talk through the consequences for your business, please email us and one of our team will get in touch.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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