Is Covid vaccine mandatory for NHS staff? Government U-turn explained - and why compulsory jab was scrapped

The government plans to scrap the requirement for health and social care workers in England to be vaccinated against Covid

A mandate requiring all NHS and social care workers in England to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is set to be scrapped by the government following a consultation.

Health workers were meant to be fully vaccinated by April but the Health Secretary has been facing growing pressure to scrap the rule.

The policy meant that frontline staff in the NHS and registered social care settings must have had their first vaccine doses by 3 February and must be double jabbed before 1 April.

However, the government has faced many calls for the policy to be delayed amid fears it could force thousands of frontline workers to leave their jobs at a time when patient demand is high.

The Government is expected to announce a U-turn on mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff (Photo: Getty Images)
The Government is expected to announce a U-turn on mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff (Photo: Getty Images)
The Government is expected to announce a U-turn on mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff (Photo: Getty Images)

Will the mandatory jab policy be scrapped?

Sajid Javid told the House of Commons on Monday (31 January) that he believes it is “no longer proportionate” to require vaccination as a condition of deployment under law.

He said it is only right to review the jab policy given that the Delta variant, which was dominant at the time the policy was announced, has now been replaced by the less severe Omicron.

Combined with greater population protection as a result of the vaccine rollout, the governmne has said it is “not only right but responsible to revisit the balance of risks and opportunities that guided our original decision last year”.

The government is now seeking “fresh advice” on the policy from the Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty and the UK Health Security Agency.

Announcing a consultation, he told MPs: “Subject to the responses and the will of this house, the government will revoke the regulations.

“I have always been clear that our rules must remain proportionate and balanced, and of course, should we see another dramatic change in the virus, it would be only responsible to review this policy again.”

Care home employers who had already dismissed employees since 11 November were complying with the law at the time and the law will remain in place pending consultation and Parliamentary process.

The revoking of the rule would mean it no longer applies to anyone deployed into care homes, including visiting professionals.

‘No apology’ for initial policy

Mr Javid stressed that everyone working in health and social care has a professional duty to be vaccinated against Covid-19, adding that the government “makes no apology” for the initial policy.

However, he acknowledged there will always be some who will walk away from their jobs over getting the jab, which could lead to a major staffing crisis in the health service.

He added: “We have to consider the impact on the workforce in NHS and social care settings, especially at a time when we already have a shortage of workers and near full employment across the economy.”

While the government is seeking to end the legal mandate, Mr Javid has written to health regulators asking them to urgently review guidance to registrants on vaccinations “to emphasise their professional responsibilities in this area”.

He has also asked the NHS to review its policies on hiring new staff and deploying current staff, taking into account their vaccination status.

Conservative MPs welcomed the reports of a U-turn on Sunday with Andrew Rosindell tweeting that Mr Javid had made “the right decision”.

He said: “These free-thinking NHS workers’ jobs are saved and quite right too.

“Well done all those who had the courage to stand up for the values of a free society!”

Meanwhile, Tory MP for Forest of Dean Mark Harper called the reported decision a “huge win”.

He tweeted: “My backbench colleagues & I have been pushing hard to spare the sack for tens of thousands of NHS & care workers.

“It beggars belief that the PM & Health Secretary kept insisting on bulldozing this policy through, despite warnings of staff shortages, for so long.”

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