Health Secretary announces plans to scrap mandatory jab requirement in health and social care
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons he believes it is “no longer proportionate” to require vaccination as a condition of deployment under law.
He said it is only right to review the policy, given that the Delta variant, dominant at the time the policy was announced, has now been replaced by the less severe Omicron.
This, combined with greater population protection from vaccines, means it is “not only right but responsible to revisit the balance of risks and opportunities that guided our original decision last year”, he said.
Announcing a consultation, he told the House of Commons: “Subject to the responses and the will of this house, the Government will revoke the regulations.
“I have always been clear that our rules must remain proportionate and balanced, and of course, should we see another dramatic change in the virus, it would be only responsible to review this policy again.”
Ministers have been facing pressure to put back the requirement for staff in England to be double jabbed by April amid fears it will lead to a major staffing crisis.
The requirement for care home staff to have two doses came into force last November, with one charity accusing the Government of using the sector as “the trial run for the NHS”.
Mr Javid said everyone working in health and social care has a professional duty to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
While the Government is seeking to end the legal mandate, he has written to health regulators asking them to urgently review guidance to registrants on vaccinations “to emphasise their professional responsibilities in this area”.
He has also asked the NHS to review its policies on hiring new staff and deploying current staff, taking into account their vaccination status.
The chief executives of the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, Matthew Taylor and Chris Hopson, said NHS leaders are “frustrated” at the 11th-hour policy change as they and their teams raced to meet the February 3 deadline for first doses.
In a joint statement they said: “They recognise the reasons the Government has given for the changes, the risk to services and the different risk from Omicron compared to previous variants.
“But there will be concern at what this means for wider messaging about the importance of vaccination for the population as a whole.”
The pair also said the U-turn will cause similar frustration for the care home sector “given the disruption to service delivery that resulted from loss of staff last November”.
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