Thank you for contacting me about health and social care workers receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
I appreciate your concerns and I know that the Government is encouraging frontline workers in health and social care to be vaccinated. I am told that the Department for Health and Social Care has been working to make the vaccination accessible to people living and working in care homes. Vaccination teams have visited all older age care homes in England and are running a minimum four-visit schedule for each. As of 10 June 2021, nearly 84 per cent of staff working in older adult care homes in England had received their first vaccination. Although this is an impressive figure, there remains significant variation at a regional, local and individual care home level. The Social Care Working Group of SAGE has advised uptake rates of 80 per cent in staff and 90 per cent in residents in care home settings are needed to provide a minimum level of protection against further outbreaks.
Compulsory vaccination for care home workers is obviously a special case given the interaction with elderly and vulnerable residents and there is a derogation from Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) on the basis of public health. Since there have been over 30,000 deaths from coronavirus in care homes, I think this would have been a proportionate policy. Care workers who do not wish to receive a coronavirus vaccine can find employment elsewhere.
However, I voted against the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 on 13 July because the vaccination requirement extends beyond care home workers. The regulations apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider, those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home. Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption. I consider that this is excessive and may prevent residents accessing services from outside their care home.
Furthermore, despite the Government’s assurances that an impact assessment had been prepared, Parliament was told on the day that this had not yet been completed. Since the vaccination requirement concerns the balance of individual and collective liberties, this document should have been produced before the vote so that Members of Parliament could be fully informed of the policy’s possible effects.
Thank you again for contacting me.