Covid: health unions call for the Government to delay mandatory jabs for NHS staff amid ‘severe shortages’

The Government should delay the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines for NHS workers, a number of health unions have said.

From 1 April 2022, NHS staff in England will be required to have been fully jabbed against Covid, unless exempt.

This means 3 February is the last date for workers to receive their first dose of an authorised vaccine in order to be fully vaccinated by 1 April, as under current vaccination guidance, eight weeks are required between the first and second vaccine dose.

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However, a number of unions and professional membership bodies are urging the Government to delay the implementation of the mandatory vaccine requirement, with some calling for the jab to remain a “free choice” altogether.

‘An act of self-sabotage’

Pat Cullen, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “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.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has also echoed this, as they have called for a delay to mandatory vaccination plans over fears of a “catastrophic impact on maternity services”.

The RCM said  as soon as Covid vaccines became available it has been calling on its members to take them up “as the best way to protect themselves and the women and families in their care”.

Although the RCM said the evidence is “undeniable” that the jab provides “all of us with the best defence against Covid”, the union has argued “against the principle of mandatory Covid vaccination”.

With it soon to be made a regulatory requirement for NHS staff in England the RCM said it is working hard to support members who will be affected by the change in order to ensure it does not “lose further midwives from the NHS, especially at a time when we already have severe shortages”.

‘It is essential that vaccination remains a free choice’

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) added that although it’s confident the “majority of healthcare professionals working in general practice have been vaccinated”, it doesn’t have the data in general practice to understand how many GP staff will be affected by making vaccination a condition of employment.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said this is “a significant concern at a time when we’re working under intense workforce and workload pressures that are being exacerbated by Covid, and this is one of the reasons the College opposed this move.”

Due to the changes coming into effect imminently the RCGP said “the focus now must be on urging as many unvaccinated people working in the NHS as possible to get vaccinated, and addressing the concerns they have around the vaccine”.

However, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said although it encourages members to take up the offer of a Covid jab, it believes “it is essential that vaccination remains a free choice for all health and care staff”, otherwise there’s a risk of driving those who choose not to receive the vaccine to leave the NHS, which will create “further capacity challenges at a time when the health service is already overstretched”.

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