Covid jabs 'to be made compulsory' for care home staff in England - reports

15 June 2021, 23:13 | Updated: 16 June 2021, 00:13

Covid jabs are reportedly set to become mandatory for care home staff
Covid jabs are reportedly set to become mandatory for care home staff. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Coronavirus jabs are set to be made compulsory for care home staff in England, according to reports, with considerations ongoing on whether to extend the measure to all NHS staff.

Boris Johnson has thrown his support behind mandatory Covid vaccinations for frontline workers and is said to have the support of ministers, a report in The Times has claimed.

Likewise, a piece in the Guardian says the government will hold two consultations into the controversial measure for the health service in the coming days.

A separate consultation for only employing inoculated care home staff has already been held, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed.

She added that the DHSC will publish its response to the review "in the coming days".

However, back in December, the prime minister said in the Commons that "it is not part of our culture or our ambition in this country to make vaccines mandatory".

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Meanwhile, officials at the DHSC did not deny that the government has green-lighted the move for social care workers in England.

The Guardian report added that care staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face dismissal.

The DHSC spokeswoman said: "Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives - with millions of health and care staff vaccinated.

"Our priority is to make sure people in care homes are protected and we launched the consultation to get views on whether and how the government might take forward a new requirement for adult care home providers, looking after older people, to only deploy staff who have had a Covid-19 vaccination or have an appropriate exemption."

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However, a number of care groups and unions have hit out against compulsory jabs, questioning the ethics of the decision and warning it could harden opposition in those who are hesitant to be vaccinated.

The UK's human rights watchdog - the Equality and Human Rights Commission - has however concluded it is "reasonable" to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated.

But it did advise that safeguards should be included to minimise the risk of discrimination by including exemptions, such as for staff who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Official figures suggest more than 150,000 NHS workers - slightly more than ten per cent - have not been jabbed, while just over 50,000 care home workers are unvaccinated. However, the figure varies between regions and there are some concerns about vaccine rates among people from ethnic minorities.