Mandatory vaccination U-turn: resetting the compass

Health and care providers – and care homes in England - will be taking stock of the Government’s announcement that legislation requiring vaccination as a condition of deployment will be revoked. The new requirement was due to come into force on 1 April 2022, with HR teams working incredibly hard over the last few months to manage the implementation of the policy.

The Health Secretary’s oral statement confirms that the Government’s decision is subject to Parliamentary process and as such will require a further consultation (in this case two weeks) and a vote to be passed into legislation. Sajid Javid went on to explain that “While the decision is subject to this House, there will be no further enforcement of the regulations, for the reasons I have set out today."

So, how should providers navigate the Government’s U-turn?

While NHSEI has written to all NHS trusts, ICS leads, CCGs and PCNs requesting that employers do not serve notice of termination to employees affected by the VCOD regulations, in light of the change in policy, there are a number of other issues that providers are grappling with from how to manage new starters, recruitment to the roles of staff that have resigned, to managing complaints and grievances and staff wellbeing.

This is a difficult time for providers with a recognition that harm has been done to working relationships across the NHS, says Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, and that recovery of relationships will take time and careful attention. A key action moving forward for providers will be communication with staff.

Where next?

The Health Secretary has provided us with a steer of what’s to come in three key areas:

  • Updated guidance from the professional regulators operating across health. The Health Secretary has asked them to review current guidance to registrants on vaccinations, including COVID-19, to emphasise their professional responsibilities in this area.
  • Updated policies on the hiring of new staff and the deployment of existing staff, taking into account their vaccination status.
  • A new consultation on updating the DHSC’s code of practice, which applies to all CQC registered providers of all healthcare and social care in England.

Do get in touch with Joanna Burrows, Stuart Craig, Fiona Goodman, Jog Hundle, Rebecca Pallot, or Surbhi Shah if you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised here.

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