Frontline NHS staff in England will be required to receive the covid-19 vaccination in order to remain in their current positions unless medically exempt. Secretary of health Savid Javid announced the intention behind the mandate is to ensure the safety of patients.
There is currently 1.3 million staff under employment by the NHS with 93% of frontline staff having received their first dose and 90% having received both doses. Chris Hopson, Head of NHS Providers stated that between 80,000 and 100,000 staff have not yet received the vaccination. Those employees that have not yet received the vaccine will have a deadline of April 2022 in order to have sufficient time to receive both doses.
The decision to enforce a mandatory vaccination status amongst NHS workers comes after a consultation that considered whether both Covid and flu jabs should be compulsory for those working within the frontline of the NHS and care homes. Although the government has decided to make the covid-19 vaccine compulsory, the flu jab will continue to not be a mandatory requirement
The four nations within the UK will make their own decision on the issue. Whilst the NHS mandate will only take effect in England, it is yet to be seen whether the other nations will follow suit, however, currently, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have no proposals to make the jab compulsory.
Chris Hopson has warned that the government needs to be careful with the tone of their announcement, those that are unvaccinated cannot be seen as scapegoats. “We understand why people are vaccine-hesitant. We need to win the argument with them, rather than beat them around the head” he said.
Hopson said that he believes the best way to encourage vaccination is through peer-to-peer interaction. He continued on to say that the threat of losing staff is a “real problem” as the NHS runs on fine margins and already relies on its staff to work extra shifts.
Sara Gorton, Unison head of health, said that she fears the move may knock staff morale to an even lower level and prompt large numbers of staff to leave. She said that the government needs to consider whether there is the possibility for alternative strategies, such as daily testing for frontline workers. Gorton believes it is important the government does not make the same mistakes made with mandatory jabs in the care sector which has led to an “unprecedented staffing crisis”.
The care home mandate comes into effect on the 11th of November, from this date, care homes will be required to refuse entry to workers that are not fully vaccinated, unless they are medically exempt or there is an emergency.
Some countries have already implemented compulsory vaccinations. One such nation is France, which had to suspend more than 3000 unvaccinated health care workers in September 2021. In the UK, it is unclear who will classify as ‘frontline workers’ but it may include clerical and administrative staff that pass through wards.
More than 45.8 million people in the UK have both doses of the Covid 19 vaccine, meaning 79.7% of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated and 87.4% have received at least one dose. The number of daily confirmed covid-19 cases remains high but it has started to fall with 32,322 cases reported on 8th November 2021, however, deaths continue to rise week-on-week with 1,191 reported in the last 7 days.
It remains to be seen whether public opinion is sympathetic towards those that do not wish to receive the vaccine or whether the public would prefer to ensure the safety of patients by having them be treated by vaccinated frontline NHS staff.
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