COVID-19: Vaccines to be compulsory for frontline NHS staff in England

November 15, 2021

Frontline NHS staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID, the health secretary announced last week.

A deadline is expected to be set for 1 April next year to give unvaccinated staff time to get both doses, Sajid Javid told the Commons.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 NHS workers in England were unvaccinated, said Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers.

Last Thursday was the deadline for care home workers in England to get vaccinated.

The government’s decision follows a consultation which began in September and considered whether both the COVID and flu jabs should be compulsory for frontline NHS and care workers.

Mr. Javid said the flu vaccine would not be made mandatory.

There will be exemptions for the COVID vaccine requirement for medical reasons, and for those who do not have face-to-face contact with patients in their work, he added.

In a statement to MPs, Mr. Javid said responses to the consultation showed support for vaccination to become a condition and concerns that some people might choose to leave their jobs. But, having considered the responses, as well as advice from his officials and NHS leaders, he concluded that all those working in the NHS and social care would have to be vaccinated, he said.

“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and, of course, protect the NHS itself.”

He said the requirement would be enforced from April, with parliamentary approval.

No unvaccinated worker should be “scapegoated”, said Mr. Javid, and should instead be supported to make “a positive choice”.

Each of the four UK nations makes its own decisions on the issue. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not made any proposals to make COVID jabs compulsory for NHS workers or care home staff.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents England’s NHS trusts, said: “We understand why people are vaccine-hesitant. We need to win the argument with them rather than beat them around the head.”

The possibility of losing staff was a “real problem” as the NHS runs on fine margins and already relies on staff to work extra shifts, he added.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said she feared the move might knock staff morale further and prompt workers to leave – or lose their job.

The government should consider alternatives like daily testing – not risk making the same mistake made with mandatory jabs in social care which had led to an “unprecedented staffing crisis”, she added.

From last Thursday (11 November), care homes are required to refuse entry to workers who have not been fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption or there is an emergency.

 

This is valid as of 15th November 2021.

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