Covid Vaccines to Become Compulsory for NHS Frontline Workers13 Nov 2021
Over 100,000 NHS staff have not had a single dose of the vaccine yet as the Health Secretary has mandated that all frontline workers in England will have their jabs by the end of April next year.
Currently, more than 93% of NHS frontline staff have had their first dose and 90% are fully vaccinated. That is higher than the general working-age population, where around 81% have had both doses.
The Health Secretary made the announcement on Tuesday as he talked about the pressures the NHS faces in the winter, regarding staff shortages amongst rising cases.
He said: “It’s with this in mind that we’ve chosen for the condition not to come into force until 12 weeks after parliamentary approval, allowing time for remaining colleagues to make the positive choice to protect themselves of those around them, and time for workforce planning.”
But concerns have been raised that it could lead some workers to leave, adding to healthcare staffing issues.
NHS industry bodies and Labour frontbenchers have warned that legally requiring staff to take the vaccine in the run-up to winter could risk loss of NHS staff at a critical time. There are valid arguments asserting that workers – especially pregnant women and people from minority ethnic groups – must be given time to overcome fears, as well as paid time off to get the jab and sick leave for any mild side effects.
Despite its controversial nature with regard to individual choice, compulsory vaccination for health staff in France proved the policy could work, with the proportion of vaccinated healthcare workers rising from two-thirds to 99% after the requirement was introduced.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said if the policy was wrongly adopted then “we risk a significant loss of a significant number of staff”.
Douglas Ferguson, a surgeon at Exeter Hospital, said it was the government’s responsibility to protect the population, describing the policy as “quite sensible”.
“I think, to be honest, if people who don’t want to be vaccinated feel that an injection, which is very well scientifically researched, is something that they decide they’re going to change their entire career for, it seems unwise, I would say.”
Without vaccine mandates, it seems the burden will be placed entirely on clinically vulnerable people who will be forced to choose between risking catching Covid from hospital or skipping vital medical appointments.
The number of daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 remains high but Tuesday was the sixth day in a row that the figure came in under 40,000, with 33,559 cases reported. A further 262 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, down from 293 for the same day last week.