Ministers are to move forward with plans to force nursing home staff to be vaccinated against coronavirus as a working condition and will consult on extending the obligation to NHS workers, Matt Hancock confirmed .
Speaking in the House of Commons ahead of MPs overwhelmingly approving a four-week deadline for the final easing of Covid restrictions in England, the health secretary also said such a requirement could future be extended to seasonal influenza vaccines.
“After careful consultation, we decided to move this proposal forward to protect residents,” Hancock said of the social workers’ plan. “Now, the vast majority of nursing home staff are already vaccinated, but not all, and we know that a vaccine not only protects you but those around you.
“And therefore, we will push forward measures to secure term of office as a condition of deployment of staff to nursing homes, and we will consult on the same approach in the NHS to save lives and protect patients from disease. . “
Hancock has announced plans to legislate to make two doses mandatory for anyone providing nursing or personal care in a care facility. Workers, visiting NHS staff and hairdressers also need to be double-stung, but visits to family, friends and first-aiders will be exempt.
He also announced a consultation on extending the requirement to the NHS and other healthcare workers, including home care.
Hancock made the announcement in a speech to open the debate on postponing reopening measures from June 21 to July 19. Despite opposition from some Conservative backbenchers, it was passed easily – by 461 votes to 60.
NHS bosses were cautious about the mandatory jab plan. Saffron Cordery, deputy managing director of NHS Providers, who speaks on behalf of health service trusts in England, said: “Trusted leaders are clear that, if the government proceeds, it will have to think fully about the implications of the mandate for trusts, if necessary, to suspend and potentially terminate staff who refuse to be vaccinated at a time when the NHS already has significant vacancy rates. “
The NHS Confederation, another hospital body, has said bosses are unlikely to accept mandatory vaccines for staff, and the Royal College of Nursing has also expressed opposition.
Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the confederation, has expressed no direct criticism of the plan, but said the implementation should be handled sensitively.
Meanwhile, the latest UK data showed that as of Wednesday nine more people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and there had been 9,055 more laboratory-confirmed cases, the daily figure. highest since February 25.
In the Commons, Tory MP Steve Baker, who is a leading member of the Covid Recovery Group, which wants the restrictions lifted sooner, asked Hancock why nursing home staff who didn’t want the vaccination couldn’t instead undergo daily lateral flow tests.
The Health Secretary replied: “Of course we already have important tests, but it is a question of risk. And we know that the vaccine reduces that risk very significantly. “
Responding to skepticism from some Tory MPs about delaying the full reopening in England from June 21 to July 19, Hancock said there would be no further delay simply to protect members of the public who had not been vaccinated .
There was “a substantial difference” in the state’s obligations to those who had not yet received a vaccine and to those who had chosen not to have one, he said.
“The duty we have when someone has not been offered the vaccine is greater than the duty we have when someone has been offered the vaccine but has chosen not to take it”, he told MPs.
Arguing the need for a four-week delay, Hancock said there were 1.2 million people over 50 and 4.4 million over 40 who had yet to receive both doses of vaccination, most of which would have had it on July 19.
The change was necessary due to the arrival of the more transferable Delta variant, he said. “A new variant has given the virus extra legs – both because it spreads more easily and because there is evidence that the risk of hospitalization is higher than for the Alpha variant, which of course was previously dominant in this country. “