The government has today [4 August 2021] published operational guidance for care homes on the mandatory vaccination of staff, which comes into effect on 11 November 2021. With the deadline only three months away, what do you need to know and be doing to prepare?

Who do the new Regulations affect?

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 make it mandatory for registered persons of all CQC registered care homes to ensure everyone entering the care home has been vaccinated, subject to certain exemptions. The Regulations will affect all care home staff, local authorities, trades people and anyone who needs to come into the home, apart from residents and their family and friends.  

Certain exemptions apply such as in an emergency, those under 18, urgent maintenance and support following bereavement. Those who are medically exempt from the vaccine programme are also excluded.  

It is the responsibility of the registered person to satisfy themselves of vaccine status. This responsibility can be delegated but the ultimate accountability rests with them.

What do care homes need to do?

With the deadline of 11 November looming, we recommend that all care homes take the following steps as soon as possible:

  1. Ensure all staff and regular visitors to the home, to whom the Regulations apply, are aware of the need to be vaccinated.
  2. Check the current vaccination status of staff to establish whether anyone needs to be vaccinated in the coming weeks, whether they are exempt, and whether there is anyone who does not intend to be vaccinated.
  3. Continue to monitor the above to ensure that those who are intending to be vaccinated have booked their appointments in time for the deadline.  The last date is 16 September for the first dose to ensure you can have the second dose in time.  
  4. Consider what the plan is for those staff members who are intending to be vaccinated but for whatever reason will not have had both doses by the deadline; are they going to be on paid or unpaid leave?
  5. Consider the plan for those staff members who are not medically exempt but do not intend to get their vaccine. Failure to be vaccinated may be a sufficient reason for dismissal but we recommend consulting with your HR team or our employment specialists to discuss this further.  
  6. Start risk assessing for those staff members who are exempt; do they need to wear additional PPE for example?
  7. Plan how you are going to check vaccine status. Different methods are being trialled at the moment but there are various forms, such as appointment cards, which are insufficient.  
  8. Plan how you are going to record the vaccine status and bear in mind data protection principles. Vaccine status is health data and therefore is a special category of data under the GDPR. Consider who can access this data and how readily available it is, for example to ensure repeated checks of the same person are avoided.  
  9. Consider whether you want to make it part of a contract with suppliers that any contractor they send to the home is vaccinated.  
  10. Consider whether staffing levels will be affected on 11 November if you have a number of staff who will not have been vaccinated, and put a plan in place to mitigate the risk this causes to residents.

We recommend having all of the above in a clear policy which is accessible to all who it applies to. Remember, the CQC will want assurance from all care homes that there is a robust governance process in place to monitor vaccine status and that reasonable adjustments have been made where appropriate to ensure the safety of residents. A failure to provide this assurance is likely to result in enforcement action.