Older woman and care worker using a tablet image,

Access and mobility leaders have been debating last week’s UK Government announcement that everyone working in care homes must be fully vaccinated to help better protect residents from death and serious illness.

The new legislation would mean that from October – subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.

The announcement has mostly been welcomed by mobility and access leaders, but continues to provoke strong debate about the possibility of firms losing large numbers of staff and the difficulty in recruiting new workers to replace them.

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Matthew James, Director at Precision Rehab, commented: “At Precision Rehab all our staff have received both vaccinations and are  now fully protected which enables us to ensure our staff and clients are as safe as possible and in addition, we are also continuing  to take the recommended precautions such as PPE, social distancing, antibacterial wipes and sprays.

“Following support from the BHTA we were all able to request an early vaccine which was extremely helpful as some care homes, schools and hospitals were already starting to enquire if visitors had been vaccinated or entry would not be allowed.

“While we thought this was a little harsh we fully understood why it was necessary and therefore offered all our staff the opportunity for the earlier vaccine to which they all agreed as they wanted to have the vaccine at the earliest opportunity.

“While we agree with and understand why the legislation has been proposed and as a business it made sense for our staff to be vaccinated to protect them and our clients it would seem harsh that care home staff could potentially lose their jobs if they choose for whatever reason not to have the vaccination.

“Let’s hope the continued vaccination programme will allow us all to overcome this pandemic and return to the new normal as soon as possible.”

Diane Hargrove, Sales Director at BES Healthcare, said that the proposed mandatory vaccination issue was discussed with the firm’s Assistive Technology and Infection Prevention teams, which she said provoked some lively debate…

Diane said: “In summary, most people were completely happy to have the vaccination (and have already) but were concerned that making it mandatory marks a red line against freedom of choice, particularly as the vaccine is still in experimental “emergency release” phase with no long term safety data.

“The team felt that provided residents were vaccinated, all visiting staff rapid tested and all other COVID precautions were in place, mandatory vaccination should not be a legal requirement.

“In addition the question of resident visitors was raised – will it be a legal requirement for them too?

“It was felt that care homes could be the start of a wider legislation within society – health and social care being the start – as being seen as more “acceptable” but potentially extending into hospitality etc.

“Out of our team, 20 per cent initially felt it was a good initiative, but were tempered by the debate that took place subsequently, whereas the others were consistently against it becoming a legal requirement for the reasons mentioned.

“All felt it was entirely appropriate that private care providers and employers could make it a requirement of employment but this was seen as a very different proposition from legal mandatory vaccination for the whole sector.

“Concerns were raised about the loss of a large number of experienced and valuable care staff, should the proposal go through, which would leave residents exposed to greater harms potentially. It was felt that recruiting to replace could prove problematic.”

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