Matt Hancock – 2021 Statement on Covid-19 Vaccination

The statement made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in the House of Commons on 14 April 2021.

I wish to inform the House of actions we are taking to improve uptake of vaccines across the adult social care sector.

In February 2021, we published the UK covid-19 vaccines delivery plan setting out the significant programme of work under way to drive vaccine uptake, including actions to improve access and to address the concerns of those who may be hesitant to receive the vaccine.

We have been working to make the vaccination accessible to people living and working in care homes. Vaccination teams have visited all older-age care homes in England and are running a minimum four-visit schedule for each. For those workers who may not have been present when the vaccination team visited the home, access via other vaccination services has been available. We also opened the national booking service for seven weeks so that frontline social care workers could book their own appointments, and care home workers can now arrange vaccination directly through their GP.

We have worked hard to address concerns among the adult social care workforce by delivering an extensive communications programme, running targeted advertisements and issuing a stakeholder toolkit containing regularly updated Q and As, guidance and communications materials. Positive messaging using influencers, leaders and care home workers who have already been vaccinated has boosted confidence and tackled misinformation, as have briefings with different faith groups who have become ambassadors for getting a vaccine.

We continue to do everything we can to increase vaccine uptake. We have targeted support at older adult care homes where vaccine uptake is low, such as in London. As of 4 April 2021, vaccine uptake among eligible workers in older adult care homes in London is 68%, compared to 82% in the south west. Local efforts, by employers, local authorities, public health teams and others, supplement this Government’s support.

Despite efforts, vaccine uptake among care home workers is not consistently at the level that we know from SAGE advice is needed to minimise the risk of outbreak: a minimum vaccination rate of 80% of staff and of 90% of residents in each home—that level must be maintained. Only 53% of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this recommendation.

It is imperative that together we now take every step necessary to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to those most at risk from covid-19 and those who care for them. We must protect people living in care homes, and we must protect the workforce who perform such a vital role.

Vaccination is a safe, effective way of preventing the spread of covid-19. It is therefore right that the Government act now to ensure that those working and assisting in older adult care homes are vaccinated to protect everyone in these settings.

From today, we are consulting on taking steps to require care providers to deploy only staff who have been vaccinated within older adult care homes. This measure would be intended to protect the people most at risk in our society—around 90% of those who died from covid-19 were people over 70.

Making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes in this way would help to further protect older people living in care homes, who are among the most vulnerable to covid-19, and ultimately save lives. A five-week consultation launches today to help inform decision making around how the change could be implemented and whether respondents think it will be beneficial. This will include areas such as potential impact on staff, safety and who could be exempt. Staff, providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are being urged to take part to have their views heard with an outcome expected by this summer.

I will provide an update to the House, following the completion of the consultation.