Today the Government have published the outcome of their brief consultation on ending the vaccination requirements in care homes and in all CQC registered settings. 90% of respondents agreed the regulations should be revoked.
They have announced that the regulations revoking both VCOD 1 and VOCD 2 (vaccination as a condition of deployment) will come into force on 15 March 2022. As a result care homes will no longer need to check evidence of vaccination for people entering care homes from that date. Care providers who were consulting with staff about the need for vaccination in order to work in other CQC regulated settings from 1 April 2022 can now communicate to staff with certainty that the regulations will be revoked. So is that the end for vaccination as a condition of deployment? The consultation response states:
"Both the Government and stakeholders are clear that those working in health and social care have a professional responsibility to be vaccinated if they can be."
"The Government will continue to work with the professional regulators to review current guidance to registrants on vaccinations, including Covid-19, and to emphasise their professional responsibilities in this area."
It is unclear what this means for the social care workforce who in the majority of cases do not have a professional regulator. My concern is that the consultation also states:
"The Government has set out its intention to consult on the code of practice on the prevention and control of infections to strengthen requirements in relation to Covid-19 and bring it in line with updated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance for registered providers of health and social care."
If the infection protection control code of practice is updated to state that a social care worker has a professional duty to be vaccinated CQC could then take the view that unvaccinated staff are not fit to be employed in a care setting. The code currently states:
“The CQC is responsible for judging compliance with the registration requirements set out in regulations. When doing this for infection prevention and cleanliness requirement, it will take account of the code and how registered providers are doing what the code says. It will do this in a way that is proportionate to the risk of infection.”
It is clearly possible that different CQC inspectors will take different views on whether vaccination is necessary to prevent infection. It is therefore critical that providers respond to the consultation on infection protection control so that we don't find VCOD is introduced by the back door and without the legislative protection to fall back on to defend claims.
In the meantime we are seeing a mixed picture from clients about their future approach. Some will continue to require new recruits to be vaccinated whilst others are changing their approach to try and ensure they have the widest pool of people to draw on in their recruitment.
We fully recognise the calls for clarity and for quick revocation of the regulations. Regulations revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment will be made following the publication of this consultation response. The regulations will come into force on 15 March in order to provide certainty for employers, their staff, patients and people who receive care or support ahead of 1 April when regulations extending the requirement to health and wider social care were due to come into force.