Key Facts: New Vaccination Legislation for NHS Staff and Health Workers

As you will be aware new legislation came into force on 6th January 2022 regarding Coronavirus, the NHS and healthcare workers. You can see these changes in the link below:

Hopefully you’ve already received this NHS Guidance and have plans in place to enact it. There is a lot to digest though, so to save you some time we have broken down the key points. Please take a few moments to understand these changes as they could affect you and your team. 

If you have any issues implementing the new rules or if you have staff refusing to be vaccinated and would like some support in dealing with it then please drop us a line at New Dawn. 

Key points from the guidance:

  • The requirement to be vaccinated includes all clinical staff and extends beyond that to all non-clinical staff who (i) are deployed as part of CQC regulated activity and (ii) may have face to face contact with patients. This will include receptionists and managers who will have face to face contact with patients by virtue of being on reception or having their offices on a site where they may have incidental contact with patients. It therefore seems necessary to assume that all clinical and patient facing roles in a GP practice will be covered, with the exception of staff who will not have any face to face contact with patients. For example, staff working in a telephone room.
  • The guidance specifically excludes staff who are not involved in any way in a regulated activity, with the example of someone working in a canteen in a hospital. This person may have face to face contact with patients, but is not covered by the regulations because they’re not involved in providing a regulated activity. It therefore seems we can assume that cleaners will not be covered, even though they may have some face to face contact with patients when carrying out their duties.
  • Now we know who is covered, we need to take steps to ensure that they’re vaccinated. This is something we started thinking about with our clients in early December and you may already have started asking staff to confirm their vaccination status. If not, or if you’ve broached this on an informal basis or with clinical staff only so far, it is now time to think about how you will start collating the data.
  • The deadlines included in the guidance are 3rd February 2022 for unvaccinated staff to get their first dose of a vaccine and 31st March 2022 to get their second dose of the vaccine. There is currently no obligation to have had the booster – though this may be introduced with an appropriate deadline in due course.
  • You need to keep a record of the vaccination status for all staff covered by the requirement to be vaccinated, plus evidence of their vaccination status. Staff may evidence their vaccination status by showing you their NHS Covid Pass and you should take a copy of this for your records in case of audit by CQC.
  • Staff may be exempt for limited criteria. If exempt, they must give you evidence to support this exemption:
  1. Under 18 – proof of age;
  2. Clinical exemption – NHS Covid Pass plus a letter from an appropriate medical professional confirming that the individual is medically unable to get vaccinated;
  3. Pregnancy – the exemption applies during pregnancy and for 16 weeks afterwards, by which time the employee should be fully vaccinated (if they remain on maternity leave longer than 16 weeks this will of course allow them more time to become fully vaccinated. You should ask for their MATB1 as proof of pregnancy. If you require proof of pregnancy before the MATB1 is issued, you may ask them for a letter from  an appropriate medical professional confirming that the individual has had a positive pregnancy test;
  4. Involvement in a clinical trial of Covid vaccines – a letter from the trial organiser.
  • You should ensure that all records of vaccines are kept in accordance with GDPR – your staff records including any health information should already comply with this. The guidance suggests you may need to update your policies and it is worth checking this, but the likelihood is that you will already have appropriate safeguards in place for staff health information.
  • If you identify any staff who are not fully vaccinated you need to:
  1. Speak to them about it – find out why they’re not vaccinated yet, whether they intend to be vaccinated in accordance with the deadlines, identify whether they have an exemption. If possible and they don’t have an exemption, encourage them to become vaccinated. 
  2. If they refuse to become vaccinated, consider whether you’re able to redeploy them. This may work in limited roles, for example a receptionist may be able to move to a telephone room only role. But for many of your roles it is likely to be difficult.
  3. Commence consultation about the risk to their role if not vaccinated – this may result in termination of employment. Remember that, if someone cannot carry out their work after 1st April you may have to pay out notice pay without them being able to work in their notice period. With that in mind, it is worth starting consultation early if possible.