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MPs ignore public consultation and vote for compulsory vaccinations for care home staff

MPs have approved regulations for all care home staff in England to be vaccinated against Covid, despite the government holding a public consultation which found 57 per cent did not support mandatory vaccination.

The government carried out a public consultation earlier this year. Eleven per cent of responses were from care providers, with 28 per cent from care home staff, 23 per cent from the general public and 23 per cent from care service users and their friends and family.

Forty-one per cent were supportive of compulsory vaccination and 57 per cent did not support the proposal. Two per cent were neither supportive or unsupportive.

Despite these results, the House of Commons went ahead and approved the regulations by 319 votes to 246 which means that by October, anyone working in a care home in England must have two vaccine doses unless they are medically exempt. This will also apply to tradesmen, hairdressers, beauticians, entertainers and others.

There was a backbench rebellion from a group of MPs including 30 Conservative members criticising the government for not publishing an impact assessment of the policy ahead of the vote last night.

Care minister Helen Whately told MPs the "impact assessment is being worked on".

Conservative MP William Wragg said: “The government is treating this House with utter contempt. Ninety minutes on a statutory instrument to fundamentally change the balance of human rights in this country is nothing short of a disgrace.

“The fact no impact assessment exists, and I contend that it does not exist – and if that is proven to be the case then I’m afraid the minister will be in a tricky position if she contends it does and it doesn’t – is a disgrace.”

Labour's Rachael Maskell added: "We're having to make a decision in the House this evening on the balance of risk and therefore we haven't been given the data because the impact assessment hasn't come forward."

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans called it a "totally unsatisfactory" situation.

The care sector also expressed concerns, with the Independent Care Group warning the policy will “discourage people from joining the sector” when there are upwards of 120,000 vacancies.

ICG chair Mike Padgham said: “This is totally the wrong approach to this issue and shows a total lack of understanding of the social care sector. It is also surely wrong to be voting this measure through without producing impact assessments – making a judgement without having all the facts.

“Given time and the right message from government, I firmly believe we could get to the right level of vaccination within social care.

“But making it compulsory and a condition of employment is not the way forward. It is going to discourage people from joining the sector at a time when we are facing an existential staffing crisis."

'And where will this end? Is the flu jab also to be made compulsory?'

Mr Padgham is also concerned the government's efforts to persuade people of the “value of the vaccine” has not gone far enough and the government is using the “blunt instrument of legislation” which will create another “barrier to recruitment.”

“What about those already employed? Are employers going to have to force them to have the injection and dismiss them if they don’t? That can’t be right and will surely open the door for legal challenge.

Some care homes have already gone down the route of mandatory vaccination for its care workers including Barchester and more recently HC-One announced it is holding a consultation with staff and trade union partner, the GMB, onthe proposal.

In a poll conducted by asking if the Covid vaccine should be mandatory for care home workers, nearly 90 per cent said no.

Mr Padgham who is also the managing director of Saint Cecelia’s Care Group said: “It isn’t right that it is compulsory for social care staff and not, at this stage, for NHS staff who are similarly working with the most vulnerable people.

“And where will this end? Is the flu jab also to be made compulsory as that can be similarly debilitating and even fatal for some people?”

The shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan told MPs last night that it was "inhumane" to force care workers to choose between losing their jobs or taking a vaccine "they’re afraid of."

Currently, the governments for Scotland and Wales have said they have no plans to introduce compulsory vaccination.