NHS and social care staff in England will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to continue in their jobs, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.
Javid made the announcement in parliament on Tuesday (9 November), saying those working within healthcare and social care sectors “carry a unique responsibility” to care for their patients.
There are fears the compulsory vaccinations will see more than 100,000 people leave the workforce as a result.
At a glance: 5 key points
- Sajid Javid has confirmed NHS staff and social care staff will be required to be vaccinated against coronavirus to continue in their roles
- Those exempt from being required to be vaccinated include those in roles which are not face-to-face with patients and those who have medical exemptions
- The rule will be enforced from next Spring
- Announcement has been met with fears the already under-pressure NHS will lose a significant amount of employees as a result of compulsory vaccinations
- Currently, 92.8% of NHS staff have had their first dose of a vaccine and 89.9% have had their second dose
What did Sajid Javid say?
In his announcement, the Health Secretary has said that NHS workers who work closely with patients face-to-face will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
This includes doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers.
Javid said more must be done to “avoid preventable harm” during the pandemic.
He said: “Having considered the consultation responses, the advice of my officials and NHS leaders including the chief executive of the NHS, I have concluded that all those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated.
“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself.
“Allow me to be clear that no one in the NHS or care that is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled out or shamed. That would be totally unacceptable.
“This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, to protect their colleagues. And of course to protect themselves.”
The deadline for compulsory vaccinations will be 1 April 2022. The deadline for care home workers in England to be vaccinated - which had been previously announced - is 11 November.
What have others said?
The decision to bring in compulsory vaccinations for NHS and social care workers in England had been backed by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who said: “We’ve got to do everything we can to protect those vulnerable, particularly elderly, people or those with multiple conditions.”
However, there have been fears voiced that the already struggling NHS will be hit by a staff shortage as a result of some employees choosing to leave their position rather than receiving vaccinations.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said while Labour wishes to see staff vaccinated, Javid should “proceed with caution” over possible staff shortages after predictions as many as 123,000 workers could leave the NHS as a result of the policy.
He said: “There will be anxiety at trust level that a policy, however laudable in principle, could exacerbate some of these chronic understaffing problems – we simply cannot afford to lose thousands of NHS staff overnight.”
Javid recognised these concerns stating the policy could have a “significant impact” on the workforce.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS has always been clear that staff should get the life-saving Covid vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients, and the overwhelming majority have already done so.
“Working with NHS organisations, we will continue to support staff who have not yet received the vaccination to take up the evergreen offer.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen lamented the need for a good level of communication between the Government and care establishments in order to ensure that the maximum number of employees are vaccinated.
She said: “The vast majority of NHS nursing staff received the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it was offered, having led the vaccination rollout across the UK and continuing to do so with the booster programme.
“With the five months until this decision takes effect, the Government and employers must continue to engage with the small minority who have chosen not to have the vaccine.”
Will vaccines be compulsory for healthcare workers in other parts of the UK?
Northern Ireland previously announced plans for a public consultation on compulsory vaccines for healthcare workers.
As of yet, there are no plans for compulsory vaccinations to be implemented in Wales or Scotland.
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