Javid signals end to mandatory vaccination of social care staff

U-turn on jabs policy will be implemented, subject to consultation, following a loss of an estimated 40,000 staff from care home workforce

Sajid Javid
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid (source: DHSC)

The government will scrap mandatory Covid vaccination for health and social care staff, subject to consultation, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said today.

The policy, requiring staff to be double jabbed, has been in place in care homes since November and, according to the government’s own estimates, has cost the workforce 40,000 staff.

It was due to come into force in other regulated social care settings – as well as across healthcare – in April, with the government estimating a loss of 35,000 home care staff.

Amid mounting calls from NHS and social care leaders for the policy to be scrapped, Javid said the government would do so, subject to a consultation, launched today.

He said the government was changing course because population immunity was higher than at the time the policy was introduced and the now dominant Omicron variant was less severe than the previous Delta strain of the coronavirus.

‘Greater population protection’

“When taken together with the first factor – that we now have greater population protection the evidence shows that the risk of presentation to emergency care or hospital admission with Omicron is approximately half of that for Delta,” he said.

Javid defended the policy’s impact to date, saying 22,000 care home staff and 10,000 home care workers had been vaccinated since September, when the government launched its consultation on extending compulsion to health and social care settings beyond care homes.

He also said that vaccination remained a “professional duty” for health and social care staff and that, in order to promote this, he had:

  • Written to professional regulators across health asking them to review their guidance on vaccination with a view to emphasising the importance of getting jabbed against Covid.
  • Asked the NHS to review staff policies on hiring staff and deploying existing workers, taking into account vaccination status.
  • Asked Department of Health and Social Care officials to consult on reviewing its code of practice on the prevention and control of infections, which applies to all Care Quality Commission-registered providers, to strengthen Covid-19 requirements.

Deepening workforce gaps

Mandatory vaccination has been roundly condemned by social care provider and staff organisations for exacerbating already significant workforce gaps across the sector.

Vacancies across the sector rose from 9.2% to 9.4%, from November to December 2021, up from 6.1% in May, while the number of posts filled in services fell to 3.7% below March 2021 levels, according to data from Skills for Care. The situation is particularly bad in care homes where the number of filled posts among care workers has dipped by 6.1% since March last year.

Following Javid’s announcement today, provider body Care England tweeted that mandatory vaccination ad been imposed on care homes “without due consideration or support”.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said the decision was the right thing to do but “it shouldn’t have taken the government so long to realise the huge mistake it was making”.

‘Thousands forced from jobs’

“Thousands of care workers have been forced from jobs they love, leaving employers struggling. Many staff will also have quit the NHS ahead of this week’s deadline.

“These ill-thought-out rules have worsened the staffing crisis, hampering the NHS and social care, and caused significant upset.

“Huge amounts of time and resources, which employers could have spent persuading staff to be vaccinated and on patient care, have been wasted.”

Meanwhile, home care leaders raised concerns about the timing of the consultation given that unvaccinated would need to have their first jabs by Thursday of this week (3 February) in order to have had their second by the deadline of 31 March.

Homecare Association chief executive Jane Townson tweeted that some providers were already starting dismissal processes in order to meet the deadlines, and that the DHSC had not provided guidance on what they should do.

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15 Responses to Javid signals end to mandatory vaccination of social care staff

  1. Andy January 31, 2022 at 9:25 pm #

    Thank goodness England is following the lead of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland on this issue. Consistency across the nations of Britain is important in this context.

  2. Tahin January 31, 2022 at 11:34 pm #

    Public health being sacrificed to save the skin of a government still recovering from the side splitting mirth they had over booze and cake while the rest of us were petrified and isolated. I see nothing to thank for that.

  3. Gill February 1, 2022 at 3:02 pm #

    I feel very mixed about this. I accept that pushing on with mandatory vaccination would lead to the loss of good staff, though it probably has also raised compliance.
    I also know many clinically vulnerable people are really concerned about being able to emerge from living extremely cautiously, and receiving NHS or social care from people who may be unvaccinated.
    All very well to say Omicron was mild (if you’re young and fit), what if a variant comes along that is deadlier.

  4. Tom J February 1, 2022 at 3:33 pm #

    Question- If it was ever true that a non vaccinated member of the NHS was so lethal to patients that we must force them to have the jabs under threat of being sacked, then why were those with medical exemptions not included? i.e. If im a frail 80 year old; the risk to me is either there or it is not.

    Its a relief that the no jab no job policy has been scrapped; it would have created chaos in an already depleted and demoralised NHS workforce. The idea that we would tell someone with Stage Four cancer that they have to stay on a waiting list because we had just sacked one of the few trained cancer specialists, would have been madness akin to biting off our nose go spite our face.

  5. Susie February 1, 2022 at 5:09 pm #

    But you are comfortable telling a stage 4 cancer patient that they might be treated by a potentially covid variants infected cancer specialist who could compromise their health/life outcomes? It’s not the roll of dice I’d choose.

  6. Obi February 1, 2022 at 9:53 pm #

    In the first wave when vaccines were not available, thousands of patients in hospital who were not infected with covid prior to admission contracted it on wards with devastating consequences. It’s an unpalatable truth to admit but many patients were infected by hospital staff. Since vacancies were rolled out both hospital and care home infections have massively reduced. I draw the conclusion that a combination of staff vaccination and patient vaccination are causal reasons. So yes, a non vaccinated member of the NHS or a care home is lethal to patients and residents. There are very sound reasons for a “frail 80 year old” not being vaccinated whether for medical or legal reasons. Specifics matter Tom J don’t they?

  7. Mark February 3, 2022 at 9:04 am #

    Wrong decision made for the wrong reasons. Where some of my social work colleagues see a battle for civil liberties I see the despair and hopelessness of my dad who lives in fear that the next home care worker visiting him might infect him. He got some comfort from being told everyone was vaccinated but he can’t be told that now. That the human rights of an 83 year old are dismissed as irrelevant against
    the ‘”sacrosanct” liberties of care staff by some says all that needs to be said about the perversion of professional ethics. Or maybe I am that misguided fool who is cutting off his nose to spite his face.

    • David February 4, 2022 at 2:34 pm #

      I Appreciate peoples fears, however that’s not good reason to dismiss peoples rights. An unvaccinated person may equally have legitimate fears about what vaccination means for their unique health circumstances as balanced against the risk covid poses to them. I’m fully vaccinated but I support my colleagues right to decline and continue in their roles. What Would people say if we mandated peoples right to a service be based on covid vaccination? This would surely be a gross violation of human rights? Then why isn’t the same courtesy applied to workers? There is therefore a discrimination of the application of rights where mandatory vaccination for health and social care staff is concerned where they are being treated less favourably in their right to body autonomy and self determination around healthcare treatments than the people they work with. This would be a breach of article 14. And the use of coercion through loss of employment means there is no valid consent as consent has to be voluntary.

      It is also not so simple to quantify risk of someone who is unvaccinated and suggest they are a direct threat to an individual due to their unvaccinated status. This is a too black or white assumption to make. The particular situation would require proportionate risk assessment to determine a number of variables and also most importantly does the unvaccinated person have antibodies? Until there is clear proof of the unvaccinated persons particular risk to vaccinated people then we are just dismissing their rights based on assumptions. And there are other ways and means of protecting people such as regular testing, PPE, using vaccinated workers instead of unvaccinated in the event that the person being visited is highly vulnerable and can’t be vaccinated for example.

  8. Serena February 3, 2022 at 9:17 am #

    How touching that suddenly the rights of low wage workers previously told they deserve their lot and no more are now the beacons around which Tory politicians because its expedient, Libertarians because all in life is a philosophical game, Unions because of dwindling numbers and therefore diminishing revenue, Care agencies because their hedge funds demand dividends, ADASS because it always bends with the wind and some ‘registered’ social workers because there is always bandwagon to hitch the “profession” onto, coalesce awaiting to be proved once more that they are on the wrong side again.

  9. Adam February 3, 2022 at 9:53 am #

    We find that the last-minute decisions and lacklustre approach to the ending of the VCOD directive have been poorly delivered, announced on the day of the Sue Gray reports then deadly silent. This is not the way government should be handling the social care crisis. We need clear and concise communication, hope we have a clearer picture by today.

  10. Bob February 3, 2022 at 2:51 pm #

    Is everyone forgetting that you can still contract the virus when you’ve been jabbed and you can still spread the virus when you’ve been jabbed. Residents in care homes have all been jabbed along with ALL staff who are still wearing PPE but the virus is still getting through!

    • Heidi February 6, 2022 at 10:44 am #

      Thank you for expressing these facts Bob.

  11. Chris Sterry February 6, 2022 at 9:02 pm #

    To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, yes, it should be a matter of choice, and it should be an informed choice free of unsubstantiated facts. There is far too many conspiracy theories and even outright lies being made about COVID and vaccines, so many are ill-informed.
    However, as well as Freedom of Choice, there is also ‘Duty of Care’ and can it be said that to be non-vaccinated is within Duty of Care.

    These workers have their hepatitis B injections so, why not COVID vaccinations.

    So, there is freedom of choice, but this should work both ways, so should not patients and other cared persons also have the freedom of choice to decide if they wish to be cared for by vaccinated staff or unvaccinated staff.

    Also persons can catch COVID whether they be vaccinated or not, but by being vaccinated the likelihood is minimised and if they do it could well be that its effects will be minimal as well, so are these not of major importance also.

    We each have a duty to each other to do all we can for each other, so being vaccinated should be good for everyone.

    All being said it should be that all will be vaccinated, but we know there are some medical exceptions, so the authorities should also be doing all they can to find other means to have some protection from COVID, for COVID is here to stay and we do, really need to find out how to live with it. So research on nasal sprays, tablets and patches and any others needs to be extended and expedited.

    What should not be is Governments doing what they feel is good for them, as their main priority should be doing what is good for the population.

  12. brigette gosling March 1, 2022 at 6:53 pm #

    so, do those staff in care homes that were coerced to have the vaccine have any redress or ability to claim compensation? jab or job, many had to have the jab against their wish to keep employment.