Government U-turn on 'no jab, no job' rule for care workers as Covid deaths rise in Northamptonshire homes

NHS voices concern over 'wider message' on vaccinations for public as officials warn coronavirus has not gone away

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 2:41 pm

Ministers will press on with easing Covid rules for care homes despite more deaths linked to the virus in the county.

Latest Office for National Statistics data showed ten deaths in county care settings — nine in West Northamptonshire and one in the North — between February 6 and February 25.

Health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Monday (February 28) that the government's 'no jab, no job' policy on mandatory vaccination for all healthcare workers will be scrapped on March 15.

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Health secretary Sajid Javid has scrapped requirements for care home workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19

Matthew Taylor and Chris Hopson, chief executives of the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, issued a statement ahead of the change saying: "There will be concern at what this means for wider messaging about the importance of vaccination for the population as a whole."

Director of Northamptonshire's vaccination programme, Chris Pallot, added: “As we learn to live with Covid-19, vaccines remain our best line of defence.

"So it’s really important every single person in the county gets the jabs they are eligible for to protect themselves and our communities as we move forward.”

Mr Javid insisted that it had been the "right policy" when the original decision was taken’ in November, which resulted in around 1,000 care workers in Northamptonshire unable to continue in front-line roles.

But he added that things have changed following ‘clinical evidence' showing the Omicron variant is less severe than feared and the high rate of vaccination.

The government said in a statement: "With the population better protected and lower levels of hospitalisations and mortality, it was right to revisit the balance of risks and benefits that had guided the government's original decisions."

Mr Javid said 92 percent of the NHS workforce and 95 percent of care home staff have had two Covid jabs and 89 percent of home or domiciliary care staff have received at least one dose.

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In Northamptonshire's independent CQC-registered domiciliary care providers, 85 percent have had two doses and 90 per cent one shot according to NHS England.

The current sequence of deaths in care homes linked to Covid in Northamptonshire — the first significant numbers in nearly a year — began days after the government also scrapped testing requirements for visitors.

The number of outbreaks in county care homes fell to 21 involving 258 people in the 14 days to February 20 from more than 44 outbreaks a fortnight earlier, although infection rates in the wider community remain above the national average.

Of the 21, ten were in Northampton and five in Wellingborough with others in Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and South Northants.

NHS England figures also show 118 Covid patients have sadly died in Northamptonshire's two main hospitals so far during 2022, including 13 in the last seven days up to Monday (February 28) — nine in Northampton General Hospital and four at Kettering General.