The Department for Health has confirmed people working in care homes will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from October under new laws.
If approved, the new legislation will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), 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 will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.
If approved by Parliament, there will be a 16-week grace period from when the regulations are made to when they come into force to enable staff who haven’t been vaccinated to take up the vaccine.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk.
“Through our consultation we have listened to the experiences and concerns of providers and people living and working in care homes to help shape our approach.
“We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers.
“This is the right thing to do and a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future. I’d urge anyone working in care homes to get their jab as soon as possible.”
There will be exceptions for visiting family and friends, under 18s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work.
The new regulations follow an extensive consultation with the social care sector, staff, residents and their families on the issue.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: “People working in care homes have played an incredibly important role throughout the pandemic caring for those most at risk from this terrible virus.
“The vaccine is working, with over 14,000 lives saved so far. It’s only right that we take every possible step to protect those most at risk now and in the long term.
“I want to take this opportunity to urge everyone working in social care to take up the jab if they haven’t already to protect those they care for, themselves and those they work alongside.”
The Social Care Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advises an uptake rate for one dose of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in each individual care home setting is needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19.
While the majority of care home workers have now been vaccinated, only 65% of older care homes in England are currently meeting the minimum level of staff uptake for one dose needed to reduce the risk of outbreaks in these high-risk care settings.