In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the care sector has seen thousands of care home workers resign or be dismissed, following the introduction of mandatory vaccination legislation on 11 November 2021. The current legislation requires mandatory vaccination for care home workers within CQC registered care homes that provide accommodation for people needing nursing or personal care, unless they can evidence a valid exemption. It is estimated that the care home workforce has lost around 40,000 staff as a result.
After growing concern over the stability of the health and social care sector, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid has announced to Parliament that the government will launch a consultation on ending Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCD) in health and all social care settings in the United Kingdom. This move came days before the 3 February 2022 deadline for unvaccinated NHS workers, who have been facing an ultimatum of having their first dose of vaccine or being dismissed.
Subject to the responses received to the consultation and parliamentary approval, the Secretary of State will revoke the regulations.
We have written recently about the difficulties being faced by both English social care providers and NHS England regarding mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. This is a real concern in view of staff shortages in the social and health care sectors.
At present, the issue of staff shortages in social care are extreme and anything that further impacts on the workforce is going to have a major effect. For example we have seen recent news reports where families have had to resort to their own ways of funding care – see here. Whilst in this instance it’s unclear why the private provider could not continue the care package, we consider such scenarios are sadly likely to become commonplace.
We have had significant experience in handling claims that have arisen from domiciliary care usually due to issues involving carers missing appointments.
However there has been a hint today that the government may relinquish the policy of requiring mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 for health and social care staff in England, in view of the lesser severity of the Omicron variant, and in view of the unpopularity of the decision with the workforce and unions. A decision will apparently be made by the government in the next few days. See here for further information.
It’s unclear however how those staff who have already lost their jobs due to the vaccine requirements will view any potential change in policy, and whether they would seek legal redress on this issue.
Health and social care workers have been facing unprecedented pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new wave of Omicron cases has swept across the UK causing staff shortages across the sector.
Stephen Chandler, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, has said that the care sector is currently facing a plethora of threats from staff isolation and COVID outbreaks to visiting restrictions. Moreover, the NHS is seeing a concerning number of staff shortages, which currently stands at approximately 93,000 workers. This could just be the beginning of the struggles to come across the health and social care sector in light of the mandatory vaccination regulations.
The Paterson Inquiry has again reared its head as the government gives its full reply to the findings of the independent inquiry led by the Reverend Graham James, former Bishop of Norwich.
For those unfamiliar with the origins of the Paterson Inquiry, Ian Paterson is a disgraced breast surgeon who was jailed for 20 years in 2017 after being convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding of patients he had treated in the private sector. Paterson subjected more than 1,000 female patients, including children, over a period of 14 years, to operations that were either medically unnecessary or left them exposed to a recurrence of breast cancer. Paterson later became the subject of an Inquiry which concluded in February 2020 with multiple recommendations being made to prevent this kind of gross malpractice from occurring again. Of particular interest to the Inquiry was the inherent failure of the system to stop these events over so many years of practice in the NHS and independent sector.
The 15 formal recommendations made as a result of the Inquiry, though far reaching, fall short of demanding new regulatory and assurance processes. The chair of the Inquiry described a ‘healthcare system which proved itself dysfunctional at almost every level’, but did not advocate for a total regulatory overhaul. Rather, the focus of the recommendations was to ‘get the basics right and implement existing systems’ in both the NHS and private medical sectors, making full use of the resources available to ensure proper oversight and scrutiny of medical professionals.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (APPG) is a cross-party group established in May 2019 to champion the aesthetic industry in Parliament. It has recently published its comprehensive report following a year-long inquiry into the standards for non-surgical cosmetic treatments. The APPG’s report sheds light on the absence of legal framework in this area.
The APPG identifies “a need for the beauty industry and the medical professions to work together to seek solutions that raise standards and protect the safety and wellbeing of consumers”. This article will outline some of the APPG’s key recommendations which are likely to have a significant impact on all parts of the industry.
A national minimum standard
The report criticises the current lack of regulation defining who can carry out these treatments. At present, procedures can be carried out by virtually anyone and there is no legal obligation for the provider to be insured. The APPG has proposed that both aesthetics practitioners and medical practitioners must be able to prove their competence by passing a minimum standard of training before administering treatments. The report considers how CPD could be used as a mechanism of ensuring this minimum standard continues to be met by practitioners.
Mandatory regulated qualifications
In response to the rising popularity of self-accredited courses, the report calls for stricter qualification rules to be put in place. There is strong support from the likes of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine that high-risk procedures, such as dermal fillers, should be restricted to being carried out by medical practitioners. The APPG recommends reclassifying dermal fillers as Prescription Only Medicines. This change in regulation would likely result in a higher proportion of doctors carrying these treatments out in the future, if non-medically qualified aesthetic practitioners are unable to continue offering them.
On 28 October 2021, the General Optical Council (GOC) launched new ‘Speaking up’ guidance, previously known as ‘Raising concerns with the GOC (whistleblowing) policy.’ The guidance is aimed at helping both individual and business registrants identify where they need to consider the professional requirement to speak up when a patient or public safety may be at risk. It should be read alongside the GOC Standards for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, Optical Businesses and Optical Students. It should also be considered in conjunction with the GOC’s professional duty of candour. The guidance is split into two parts, with Part 1 applying to individuals and Part 2 to business registrants.
On Friday 22 October, Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill progressed to the Committee Stage after being debated in the House of Lords. If enacted, it will undoubtedly be a seminal moment in healthcare law. It would permit medical professionals to lawfully prescribe end of life medication to terminally-ill adult patients of mental capacity who are reasonably expected to die within six months (and voluntarily making such a request), essentially legalising physician-assisted suicide. Although the majority of speakers were in favour of the bill, Hansard reveals how many members hold great concern for the safeguarding of vulnerable individuals and for the impact the bill may have on the public’s trust in doctors. It is therefore entirely understandable why this issue is prompting such widespread debate.
It has been confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccination will become compulsory for staff that care for the elderly and vulnerable. In enforcing such a requirement, organisations are likely to face a number of issues and potential pitfalls, and it is important therefore to explore the key steps if you are considering introducing compulsory vaccination for staff or those deployed in the organisation.
Last November we reported on Mr Justice Linden’s decision to grant permission for judicial review on all grounds of the UK government’s policies and measures which had a bearing on the protection of care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The claim, which relates to patient discharge policy in England, will be heard later this month. In respect of Scotland, recently released information by public health authorities appears to acknowledge some important difficulties there in the early part of last year. This blog explores the key issues in both jurisdictions and sets the scene for the (English) judicial review later this month.
On 16 September 2021, the General Dental Council (“GDC”) announced imminent changes to the way in which dental professionals in England who are the subject of conditions or undertakings receive support.