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Government launches consultation on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for care home staff

Unison warns that staff could leave if a heavy-handed approach is taken
Picture shows vials of COVID-19 vaccine

Unison warns that care home staff could leave if a heavy-handed approach towards COVID-19 vaccinations is taken

Nurses and other staff working in care homes for older people in England could be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of deployment, the government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a five-week consultation on the proposals. But Unison has said persuasion not coercion must be the key to drive vaccine take-up among staff, warning that some could leave if a heavy-handed approach was taken.

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Unison warns that care home staff could leave if a heavy-handed approach towards COVID-19 vaccinations is taken

Picture shows vials of COVID-19 vaccine
Picture: iStock

Nurses and other staff working in care homes for older people in England could be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of deployment, the government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a five-week consultation on the proposals. But Unison has said persuasion not coercion must be the key to drive vaccine take-up among staff, warning that some could leave if a heavy-handed approach was taken.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock Picture: Alamy

‘We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.’

Proposal excludes staff who are exempt from vaccines on medical grounds

Latest vaccination figures from NHS England show that 78.9% of older adult care home staff have had a COVID-19 vaccination.

Currently the staff vaccination rate is below 80% in 89 out of 150 local authority areas, including all London boroughs. In 27 local authority areas less than 70% of staff have had a jab.

The proposals would not include staff who are exempt from taking the vaccine on medical grounds, with a decision expected to be made this summer.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said mandatory vaccination was the wrong approach. ‘Too heavy-handed an approach could backfire badly,’ she said.

‘Some staff may simply up and go, leaving a poorly paid sector already struggling with thousands and thousands of vacancies in a terrible state. That could damage the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable, and no one wants that.’

Instead, the government should target resources at areas with low take-up, aim advertising towards care staff, tackle misinformation and give staff more time, while employers should ensure staff get time off to get the jab, she said.


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