Mandatory Vaccination likely to be scrapped in the coming days | QCS

Mandatory Vaccination likely to be scrapped in the coming days

Dementia Care
February 1, 2022

Chris King, Associate Solicitor at Napthens unravels what the recent government announcement means for you.

Following an announcement last night in the House of Commons by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, it is looking increasingly likely that the intended mandatory vaccination requirement for continued deployment in front-facing health and social care roles in England is to be scrapped. This comes just days before the 3rd February deadline for affected staff who are unvaccinated had to have received their first vaccination in order to be fully vaccinated by the 1st April in line with the Regulations. The 3rd February deadline will no longer apply while the Government triggers a consultation on removing the requirement.

Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (known as VCOD) had been a flagship health policy of the Government since it was introduced in July 2021 as part of the drive to increase uptake in the vaccines and protect the most vulnerable members of the public, initially affecting care home staff in CQC-registered care homes in England who were required to be fully vaccinated by 11th November 2021.

Whilst VCOD for care home staff was criticised at the time, this was during the height of the Delta variant and initial concerns over the newly discovered Omicron variant, whereas its intended extension to all front-facing health and social care staff in England is under a different landscape where vaccine uptake has increased and more information on the severity of the now dominant Omicron variant is available. Significant pressure has also been put on the Government by those within the health service such as the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Midwives to reconsider the requirement due to the likely staffing crisis that would face the health services when they continue to be under significant strain already.

The Government has confirmed that it makes no apologies for introducing the requirement as it was the right thing to do at the time but that, as the situation has developed in terms of our understanding of the infection and “dramatic changes” in the virus since the policy was introduced last year, it was now the right time to reconsider it. Sajid Javid said “I have always been clear that our rules must be proportionate and balanced and, of course, should we see another dramatic change in the virus, it would only be responsible to review this policy again.” It is likely, given Labour’s express support of the removal of VCOD, the requirement will be dropped.

For those employers affected by the imminent introduction of VCOD, NHS England Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, has asked them to withhold serving notices of termination for those employees who would have remained unvaccinated after the 3rd February deadline. Health leaders have still stressed however, that despite the fact that the vaccination requirement is no longer mandatory, employers should continue to strongly encourage uptake of the vaccine for those staff who remain unvaccinated. Similarly, as seen in the recent case of Allette v Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home Ltd, employers still, in certain circumstances, have the option to introduce a mandatory vaccination requirement if it can be justified. Communication with staff will also be key at this time as they may not yet be fully aware of the current position.

Should employers require any assistance with understanding their options following last night’s announcement, a member of the Napthens Employment and HR Team would be more than willing to discuss this with you.