In December 2021, Parliament approved legislation requiring vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD) in health and wider social care. This was due to come into force from 1 April 2022.
On 31 January I announced the government’s intention to revoke the regulations making vaccination a condition of deployment in all health and social care settings. This is subject to consultation and Parliamentary process.
I have listened to the best clinical and scientific advice and considered how we can achieve public health and safety with the minimum number of restrictions or requirements on people’s lives. The changes in the pandemic as a result of the Omicron variant and the continued success of the vaccination programme mean it is right that we revisit the balance of risks and opportunities that guided our original decision last year.
Whilst vaccination remains our very best line of defence against COVID-19, and all people working in health and social care settings have a professional duty to be vaccinated, the view of this Government is that it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment through statute.
Following this announcement, I am now providing further clarity on how this planned revocation impacts on the 3 February deadline for a first dose of COVID-19 vaccination for those currently working in CQC-regulated health and wider social care settings. I am aware that, based on the guidance already issued, those who employ or engage staff working in health and wider social care settings may have begun to prepare for formal meetings with staff if they remain unvaccinated.
With the announcement of our intention to revoke this legislation, the Government’s clear advice is that those employers do not serve notice of termination to employees in connection with the VCOD regulations.
NHS England has written to healthcare employers requesting that employers do not serve notice of termination to employees affected by VCOD regulations. Furthermore, my Department has written to the adult social care sector and advised that employers in wider adult social care do not serve notice of termination to employees in connection with the VCOD regulations.
I want to acknowledge the incredible efforts of the health and social care sector over the past year to encourage staff to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. These have been very much appreciated. Since September there has been a net increase of over 127,000 people working in the NHS who have been vaccinated. During the same time, we have also seen a net increase of 32,000 people vaccinated in social care including 22,000 people in care homes and 10,000 people working in domiciliary care.
My Department will move quickly to publish a consultation as legally required, and will continue to keep all those affected updated.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords