Politics

Ministers urged to delay mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff in England | NHS


Trade union leaders are urging ministers to delay making Covid vaccination mandatory for NHS personnel because the feared exodus it will trigger will worsen the health service’s staffing crisis.

The government has decided that all NHS staff in England who have direct contact with patients must have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine by 3 February or risk losing their job at the end of March.

But the TUC has called for the policy to be delayed “with immediate effect”, to avoid the loss of staff it will create deepening the health service-wide shortage of key workers which is a key reason why dozens of NHS trusts have had to declare a major alert over the last week.

The TUC is warning the health secretary, Sajid Javid, that pressing ahead with the plan “will exacerbate this crisis, creating a bureaucratic and staffing nightmare for NHS trusts and making it impossible to maintain safe staffing levels in the coming weeks”.

Javid, who has already imposed the requirement on staff working in care homes in England, believes that compulsory jabs for NHS staff will help keep patients safe and reduce the number of people who contract Covid while in hospital.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis, born not only from Covid absences but also long-term problems that need long-term solutions. Now is not the right time to introduce more bureaucracy.

“As hospitals declare critical incidents amid a surge in Covid cases, the NHS cannot afford to lose experienced and skilled staff”.

The NHS already has 93,000 vacancies, including for 40,000 nurses. The government’s own impact assessment of its policy concluded that as many as 73,000 staff may leave rather than get jabbed. Women, people from ethnic minorities and younger workers are among those most likely to quit.

The Guardian reported last month that Chris Hopson, the chief executive of the hospitals body NHS Providers, feared that entire units of hospitals may have to close “in extreme circumstances” as a result of the departure of unvaccinated staff. He cited an unnamed maternity unit where 40 midwives are refusing to get jabbed and whose stance had left the trust’s boss seriously concerned for the future viability of the service if they left, given that the NHS in England is short of about 2,500 midwives.

O’Grady issued her plea hours after new official data showed that the NHS in England is grappling with the highest number of Covid absences since the vaccine programme began 13 months ago, with more than 40,000 staff unable to attend work on two days in the past week. The disclosure prompted claims that hospitals are “simply not safe”.

An average of 35,596 staff were sick with Covid in the past week, a level last seen in January 2021 at the height of the second wave of the pandemic and higher than any week since all priority groups were offered at least their first vaccine in mid-February.

The UK reported a further 178,250 Covid cases on Friday, bringing the total for the past seven days to 1,260,535, up 20% compared with the total for the week before. However, the daily figure is lower than those recorded in recent days, with 179,756 cases reported on Thursday and 194,747 on Wednesday.

On Wednesday Sir David Nicholson, the former chief executive of NHS England who is now the chair of the Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals trust, said that it could lose hundreds of staff as a result of mandatory vaccination.

“My understanding on vaccines is that, though we may not put it in these terms, we will essentially be giving unvaccinated staff notice at the start of February.

“I am sure that’s not quite the right way of putting it but that is the inexorable logic of where we are.”

The Homerton hospital trust in east London said last month that its bosses “remain worried” that conversations with unvaccinated staff to persuade them to get immunised “haven’t made an impact yet”.

Tom Nettel, the trust’s director of people, told a board meeting: “Unfortunately, if we are not able to vaccinate them, and they do not feel comfortable to do so, we may be faced with an outcome of dismissal.”



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *