United Kingdom

Care staff may have to get a flu jab too: Nursing centre workers could be forced to have flu vaccine

Hundreds of thousands of NHS and care staff could be forced to have jabs for flu despite a backlash against mandatory Covid vaccines.

Matt Hancock announced yesterday that, from the new year, care home workers will need to have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

The Health Secretary said officials would also consult on whether NHS staff should be forced to have the Covid jab before being allowed on to the front line.

And they will examine whether the rules should compel NHS and care staff to have a flu vaccine.

Unions reacted with fury to the announcement yesterday. The GMB warned that as many as one in three carers could consider leaving their jobs if vaccinations became compulsory.

There have been concerns that some parts of the country, such as London, have particularly low uptake of jabs for such staff – putting elderly residents at risk. NHS figures to June 6 show that just 69 per cent of staff in older adult care homes in England have been fully vaccinated.

A nurse with a vial of vaccine at the vaccination centre at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell, Scotland. Picture date: Friday June 11, 2021

After months of debate, ministers believe the only way to address the issue is to make Covid jabs compulsory.

Mr Hancock said: 'Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk. Through our consultation we have listened to the experiences and concerns of providers and people living and working in care homes to help shape our approach.

'We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers.

'This is the right thing to do and a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future. I'd urge anyone working in care homes to get their jab as soon as possible.' But GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said more than a third of carers would consider leaving their jobs if jabs become compulsory.

Healthcare workers are seen at the Millennium Point Vaccination Centre, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Birmingham, Britain, January 11, 2021

'Carers have been at the forefront of this pandemic, risking their lives to keep our loved ones safe, often enduring almost Victorian working standards in the process,' she said.

'The Government could do a lot to help them: address their pay, terms and conditions, increasing the rate of and access to contractual sick pay, banning zero hours, and ensuring more mobile NHS vaccination teams so those working night shifts can get the jab.

'Instead, ministers are ploughing ahead with plans to strongarm care workers into taking the vaccine without taking seriously the massive blocks these workers still face in getting jabbed.' The new legislation means that from October – subject to parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – anyone working in a care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine unless they are exempt.

Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, will also have to follow the new regulations.

Dr Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester care homes, said: 'We believe we should all do whatever possible to protect the most vulnerable of society, therefore we welcome the Government's proposal to require everyone working in a care home to be vaccinated against Covid-19.' 

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