Earlier this year, I was quoted in Health Service Journal discussing the Department of Health & Social Care’s consultation on making COVID19 vaccination a mandatory condition of deployment in older age (>65) care homes.
Today, DHSC announced both the outcome of its consultation and the new legal requirements it intends to introduce. Interestingly, the requirements which will now be brought into effect differ significantly from the proposals set out within the original DHSC consultation.
Although a majority of respondents to the consultation (57%) did not support the mandatory vaccination proposals, DHSC has decided to introduce regulations to require all Care Quality Commission-regulated service providers of nursing and personal care in care homes in England to allow entry to the premises only to those who can provide evidence of having received a complete course of an authorised COVID19 vaccine (or evidence that they are exempt from vaccination). The requirement will include all persons who enter a care home, regardless of their role, such as healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers, beauticians and CQC inspectors.
Care homes will not be obliged to enforce the requirement in respect of people who only work in the outdoor area or surrounding grounds of care home premises, residents themselves, visiting friends or relatives of residents, persons providing emergency assistance or doing urgent maintenance work in the care home, and those under the age of 18.
Draft legislation is yet to be published, but the original consultation indicated that the vaccination requirement would be inserted into the Care Quality Commission fundamental standards, which form part of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. These are the standards below which a provider must never fall and CQC can use both its civil and criminal enforcement powers against providers in breach. These powers include cancellation of a provider’s registration i.e. closure of the service.
DHSC has stated that it will publish further guidance to describe the scope and process for granting exemptions (which will continue to be informed by the Green Book) and that it is working with NHSX to explore use of the NHS App as evidence for vaccination or exemption status.
DHSC also announced the imminent launch of a public consultation regarding making both COVID19 and flu vaccination a condition of deployment in all healthcare and wider social care environments. This further consultation is of much greater significance, as it would encompass NHS services and the NHS’s over one million employees.
From my perspective as a regulatory lawyer, it seems inevitable that we will encounter both CQC enforcement action against providers who fail to effectively implement and police the new requirements and, in a smaller number of cases, professional discipline proceedings against professionals unwilling to be vaccinated.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you need assistance in relation to any CQC or professional discipline matter.