08 Feb Government plans to scrap mandatory NHS vaccinations over staffing concerns
The UK Government has announced plans to scrap a policy requiring all patient-facing NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The justification for the U-turn is a concern for patient safety, if the mandatory vaccination policy meant the loss of crucial frontline staff.
In January, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned that introducing the mandatory jabs policy would exacerbate an already critical worker shortage crisis within the NHS. Organisations under the NHS umbrella have previously estimated that around 60,000 staff would be dismissed if the policy had gone ahead as planned.
The RCN called on the government to change its mind, and push back the deadline date for all frontline staff to be vaccinated.
RCN General Secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, told Nursing Times:
“Nothing matters more to a nurse than caring for their patients safely. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do that.
“We are calling on the government to recognise this risk and delay a move which by its own calculations looks to backfire.
“To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.”
Ms Cullen also said that encouragement, rather than punishment, was the best way to increase vaccine uptake among NHS staff.
Health Secretary announces last-minute reprieve
In response to warnings about severe staff shortages, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that he will be scrapping a policy he personally championed just a few months ago. The announcement came just three days before the deadline for all unvaccinated patient-facing NHS staff to receive their first dose. The original schedule required all frontline staff to have their first jab by 3rd February 2022, and their second by 31st March 2022.
There are reportedly around 127,000 NHS and care home staff who have not had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. And on 31st January, the number of positive coronavirus cases was recorded at just over 92,000.
The change of plans means that health service leaders will not be terminating the employment of workers who remain unvaccinated. Mr Javid also revealed that immunisation as a condition of working will be lifted as policy for care home staff, where around 40,000 staff have already been lost.
Explaining the last-minute change of heart, Mr Javid said:
“While vaccination remains our very best line of defence, I believe it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment by statute.
“I will launch a consultation on ending vaccination as condition of deployment in health and all social care settings. Subject to the response and the will of this house, the government will revoke these regulations.”
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