The Department of Health and Social Care’s latest guidance sets out how care home staff working in a CQC registered care home can apply for official proof that, for medical reasons, they are unable to be vaccinated for Covid-19. This will also be relevant to NHS organisations and other employers who deploy their staff to enter and provide services in care homes.
The new process requires care staff to complete an application form to apply for an exemption, which will then be clinically reviewed, to have their care exemption confirmed. This process, which is stated to apply after 24 December 2021, will replace the temporary self-certification scheme introduced on 15 September – you can read our blog here.
The guidance confirms that “All exemptions will be confirmed by your doctor, specialist clinician or midwife. If approved, your NHS COVID Pass can then be used to prove your status.”
A summary of the key points from the guidance is set out below:
- Care staff working or volunteering in CQC registered care homes in England can currently self-certify that they meet the medical criteria for exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine. More information on this existing temporary process can be found here.
- The self-certification exemption form is only valid for a period of 12 weeks after that a formal certified exemption will be required from Friday 24 December 2021.
- There is no further clarity on medical exemptions with the guidance providing that “Other medical conditions could also allow you to get a medical exemption” but does not define these “other” medical exemptions. It also adds that “Short term exemptions will also be available for those with short-term medical conditions and adds an option that some pregnant woman may choose to take.”
- Pregnant women can use MAT B1 certifications to show their Covid status, if they choose to use a medical exemption. This will expire 16 weeks after birth.
- Care staff wishing to apply for and receive the formal Covid-19 medical exemption will need to call the NHS Covid Pass service on 119 to obtain the application form. The completed form will then be reviewed by the clinician responsible for their care, with the outcome then sent to the individual by post, which could take between two to three weeks after applying. This notification letter can be used by an individual to prove their exemption status.
- There is no right of appeal. The clinical decision on the medial exemption is final.
A letter dated 11 October 2021 from the DHSC's Claire Armstrong, Director of Adult Social Care Delivery and Covid-19 Response, provides further details on exemptions, including self-certification, has been sent to care home providers, care home managers and local authorities to advise them of the new medical exemption process.
The DHSC are running an online webinar on Wednesday 20 October 2021 at 9:30am on Covid-19 vaccination of people working/deployed in care homes. The event is free to attend and you can book your ticket here. It says it will include information on the public health aims of making vaccination a condition of deployment in care homes, the CQC enforcement approach, and workforce issues.
In the context of this latest guidance, care providers and their HR teams will need to encourage staff to apply for the clinically reviewed medial exemption and subsequently confirm the outcome of that application process. Given that the process is likely to take between 2 to 3 weeks, staff should be actively encouraged to start the process sooner rather than later in good time to meet the deadline of 24 December 2021.
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