The Committee considered a report of the Director of Adults and Communities which provided an update on mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for people working in care homes, including anyone entering as part of their employment, and how the Council was supporting care home providers with this new requirement. The report also described the recently closed national consultation on proposals to extend mandatory vaccination for Covid-19 and seasonal flu to frontline health and wider social care staff in England. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 12’, is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion the following points arose:
(i) Concern was raised that even a small percentage of care home workers declining the vaccination could have a detrimental effect on the workforce and on a sector that was already struggling with recruiting and retaining staff. The Director reported that the take-up of the vaccines in Leicestershire’s care homes had increased since the report to the Committee had been written. The percentages for take-up amongst care home staff were now at 94.6% for dose 1 and 88.7% for dose 2. It was acknowledged that the gap for all care home workers to become fully vaccinated was still significant, but as the vast majority were on track to meet the requirements the risk of provider failure was considered to be low. Focus was therefore being given to ensuring care homes were able to deal with any residual challenges. Part of this focus included a significant amount of work being undertaken in respect of recruiting and retaining staff, for example some of the red rated care homes had increased staff wages to attract more recruits. Other mitigations included some homes looking at how they might restrict new admissions if this happened to be necessary and looking at the use of agency staff as a short-term solution to ensure residents’ safety. Members noted that it was also expected that there could be a surge in the uptake of workers receiving their second dose nearer the final deadline as had happened nearer the first dose deadline.
(ii) With regard to the National Government’s consultation on mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of health and wider social care staff, it was acknowledged that a number of other vaccines such as for prevention against Hepatitis B were already a requirement of some health related roles, but the challenge with bringing in new vaccination requirements from a social care perspective was that the process was relatively untested and there would not have been an expectation for existing workers to have the Covid-19 vaccine when signing up to their role. There was therefore a risk that any further requirements would put additional pressure on a sector that was already experiencing issues with recruiting and retaining staff.
(iii) It was clarified that the deadlines around the mandatory vaccine requirements, including those in respect to the temporary self-certification process had been set by the National Government. The overlap of the deadline dates for the requirements for care home workers to become fully vaccinated by the 11 November 2021 and the deadline for when the temporary self-certification was due to expire on 23 December 2021 reflected the fast moving nature of the developments and related to the timing of when the Government was able to agree and release the relevant policies. For example, time had been needed to consider how to ensure that people with a genuine need could receive a medical exemption including pregnant women who might be hesitant to receive the vaccine during pregnancy. Members noted that a person requiring a temporary exemption after the self-certification expiry date would still be able to receive one so long as this was confirmed by the appropriate clinician.
That the contents of the report regarding the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for workers in care homes and the national consultation on extending the requirement for vaccination to the wider health and social care workforce, to cover Covid-19 and seasonal flu vaccination, be noted.