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The Health & Social Care Act Update - what does it mean for the Health & Social Care sector?

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The Health & Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No.2) Regulations 2021 (for obvious reasons, from now on I’ll refer to this as just “the Regulation”) are not only a mouthful to say, they’ve also brought into effect some pretty extensive changes across the entire health and social care sector. The Regulation came into force on 7th January 2022 and places duties on the healthcare sector to ensure that employees have been fully vaccinated. Let’s take a look at the changes in more detail.

What does the Regulation say?

In a nutshell, the changes can be summed up as follows:

The registered person for any CQC regulated activity is responsible for ensuring that anyone employed or otherwise engaged for the purposes of the provision of that regulated activity has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless exempt.

OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s break it down.

“...unless exempt”

An individual is exempt from the need to be vaccinated if they:

  • Do not have direct, face-to-face contact with service users;
  • Are under the age of 18;
  • Are medically exempt;
  • Are a participant in a clinical trial; or
  • Are engaged in the provision of the regulated activity as part of a shared lives agreement

If none of the above applies, the person must be fully vaccinated.

“The registered person for any CQC regulated activity…”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the organisation responsible for overseeing and regulating health and social care services in England. Under the Health and Social Care Act, certain services (including personal and nursing care, surgical procedures, and family planning services, among others) fall under the regulation of the CQC. Any organisation which performs these “regulated activities” must register with the CQC and appoint an individual to act as the “registered person” responsible for that particular activity.

“...anyone employed or otherwise engaged for the purposes of the provision of that regulated activity…”

Anyone, whether they work directly for the organisation offering the regulated activity, or if they’re a contractor, a student, or a volunteer who has been brought in to help, in some way, provide the regulated activity, must be fully vaccinated.

Importantly, this includes non-medical staff. So, for example, a member of the facilities team in a hospital would have to be vaccinated because they:

  1. Are employed to help provide a CQC regulated activity (a clean environment and fully functioning facilities are crucial to providing care); and
  2. Are likely to have direct, face-to-face contact with patients in clinical areas

However, a volunteer in a hospital shop which is located in an ante-natal clinic, for example, doesn’t need to be vaccinated because, although they may well have direct, face-to-face contact with patients, they have not been employed or engaged in any way by a registered person in order to help provide a regulated activity.

“...fully vaccinated against COVID-19…”

To be fully vaccinated, a person must:

  • Have had a minimum of 2 doses of an authorised COVID-19 vaccination; or
  • If vaccinated with an unauthorised vaccine, have also received at least 1 dose of an authorised vaccine

If an individual hasn’t been fully vaccinated and an exemption doesn’t apply, they cannot be employed or engaged for the purposes of carrying out the regulated activity - though they can, of course, be reassigned to another non-regulated activity or to a part of a regulated activity which does not involve direct, face-to-face contact with service users.

Key dates

The regulation came into effect on 7th January 2022 and a grace period is in place until 1st April 2022. By then, nobody caught under the rule change can be unvaccinated, unless exempt.

For a completely unvaccinated person to be fully vaccinated in time for the end of the grace period, they must receive their first dose by 3rd February 2022 at the latest.

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