Government set to announce mandatory Covid-19 jabs for NHS staff
By Jane Kirby, Ella Pickover and Jemma Crew, PA
The Government is expected to announce mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for frontline NHS staff in England, with a deadline of next spring for both doses.
The Department of Health said it was not commenting on speculation around the timing of the announcement, which the BBC said would be later on Tuesday.
However, NHS officials said they expect the move to happen, which will affect the thousands of unvaccinated staff working in the health service.
Care home workers in England have already been told they must be fully vaccinated by the deadline of this Thursday.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said that if mandatory vaccination for NHS staff is approached in the right way it could actually result in a rise in the take-up of jabs.
He said there are between 80,000 and 100,000 NHS workers in England who are unvaccinated against coronavirus and he expects a Government announcement on the issue “today”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you look at other nations that have done this, there is no doubt that if you do it carefully, at the point when you announce the fact that you are going to have mandatory vaccinations in the sector, it does provide quite a useful opportunity to then have those kind of further conversations.
“So, if we get it right, actually, it could be quite a useful spur in some senses to drive the take-up up, but the bit that we just need to be careful of, as I said, is avoiding scapegoating people.”
Mr Hopson warned that the NHS and the social care sector losing “significant numbers of staff” would be a “real problem”.
He said: “The problem for both social care and the NHS is we run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins.
“Both of us have got around 90 to 100,000 vacancies.
“We are completely reliant on our staff to … work extra shifts in order to do the work that needs to be done.
“So losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressure that both of the systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem.
“And that’s why we’re very clear with the Government they need to help us manage this risk.”
Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab refused to comment on the reports.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t comment on leaked reports about what the Government may or may not do, and that’s just not the professional thing for a minister to do.
“Obviously, we set out our announcements on this in the usual way.
“I think it’s right to say that we’ve been very mindful of encouraging greater take-up – or maximum take-up if you like – of the vaccination and the boosters to go with it, but not just across the country at large, but particularly in vulnerable settings, like care homes and in the NHS.”
It is unclear whether the new announcement will include hundreds of thousands of social care staff – outside of care homes – who are yet to be fully vaccinated.
Latest figures from NHS England show that almost a quarter (23.3%) of staff working in younger adult care homes and domiciliary care providers have not been reported as having had both jabs as of October 31.
This is a total of 116,871 staff.
In addition, three-quarters of staff working in other social care settings outside of care homes, including non-registered providers and those employed by local authorities, have had their first jab.
But only about a third were doubled jabbed as of October 31, with 383,760 staff in these settings not doubly vaccinated or reported as so at this point.
Tens of thousands of care home staff were not recorded as having been double jabbed as of October 31, meaning they are set to lose their jobs this week, according to the NHS figures.
Some 60,964 staff had not had a second jab reported as of the end of October, with several thousand of these understood to have self-certified as exempt or applied for official proof.
Care groups have called for the mandatory vaccine policy to be axed or delayed so providers can get through winter challenges without more staff leaving.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “The NHS has more than enough on its plate without the Government adding more to its to-do list.
“Vaccination rates are already high across the NHS. Instead of compulsion, ministers should be looking at redoubling their efforts to boost voluntary take-up, which is already more than 90%.
“Mandatory jabs in social care have prompted an unprecedented staffing crisis.
“The Government should be careful not to make the same mistake twice. It should also consider practical alternatives like daily testing.”