Health and care sector workers in England who decline to be fully vaccinated could be moved to back-office roles, a UK government minister has suggested, as a consultation on plans to mandate Covid-19 and flu vaccinations was launched.
The six-week consultation process will take views on whether vaccine requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers – those in contact with patients and people receiving care.
It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.
The government previously said all staff in registered care homes in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 from 11 November, unless medically exempt.
Speaking on Times Radio, Helen Whately, the minister for care, said the government was working with care homes and other settings to see if workers who refused the vaccine could be redeployed.
She said: “You can look at whether there are alternative ways somebody could be deployed, for instance, in a role that doesn’t involve frontline work, or doesn’t involve being physically in the same setting as the patient – whether it’s, for instance, working on 111, something like that.
“So we could look at alternative roles for individuals, these are exactly the sorts of things that we can investigate.”
But she suggested that people who refused to get vaccinated against coronavirus should not work in social care.
Speaking on Sky News, Whately said care homes had been hit particularly hard by Covid, and added: “The reality is that one of the best ways we can protect people living in care homes is through making sure that staff are vaccinated.”
Asked whether she was concerned that the vacancies in social care would increase by mandating that workers must be jabbed, she said: “The big question has to be … if you don’t want to get vaccinated, how can you continue, how can it be right to continue, to look after people who are really vulnerable from Covid?”
Her remarks came as healthcare staff, patients and their families were being encouraged to take part in a consultation launched on Thursday.
The process will also seek views on whether flu vaccines should be a requirement for health and care workers.
Critics of compulsory vaccinations for care workers have claimed the policy would lead to many leaving their jobs at a time when vacancies are at a staggering 120,000.
According to the DHSC, about 92% of NHS trust staff have received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 88% of staff have received both doses.
However, the DHSC says new data shows uptake rates between NHS trusts can vary from about 78% to 94% for both doses.
National flu vaccination rates in the health service have increased from 14% in 2002 to 76% last year. But in some settings, rates are as low as 53%.