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Delay NHS staff vaccine mandate or risk deeper workforce crisis

Compulsory COVID vaccination from April would be bad timing for NHS services amid soaring absence and staff departures, TUC leader tells ministers
Coronavirus vaccine phials as TUC calls on halt of NHS vaccine mandate plan

Frances O’Grady calls on government to defer April implementation of coronavirus vaccine mandate for health service staff in England

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on ministers to postpone compulsory coronavirus vaccination for NHS staff as trusts struggle with widespread COVID-19-related absence.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it would be the wrong time to implement the policy.

‘We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis’

Mandatory vaccination of NHS and social care staff in England is due to be in place from April this year, but Ms O’Grady warned a combination of high staff absence due to the Omicron variant, service backlogs and loss of unvaccinated staff would force a workforce crisis.

Frances O’Grady calls on government to defer April implementation of coronavirus vaccine mandate for health service staff in England

Coronavirus vaccine phials as TUC calls on halt of NHS vaccine mandate plan
Picture: iStock

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on ministers to postpone compulsory coronavirus vaccination for NHS staff as trusts struggle with widespread COVID-19-related absence.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it would be the wrong time to implement the policy.

‘We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis’

Mandatory vaccination of NHS and social care staff in England is due to be in place from April this year, but Ms O’Grady warned a combination of high staff absence due to the Omicron variant, service backlogs and loss of unvaccinated staff would force a workforce crisis.

‘We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis, borne not only of COVID absences, but also long-term problems that need long-term solutions,’ Ms O’Grady said.

‘Legislation for this policy has passed but this is precisely the wrong time to implement it. We need to keep patients safe and maintain safe staffing levels.

‘As hospitals declare critical incidents amid a surge in COVID cases, the NHS cannot afford to lose experienced and skilled staff.’

NHS workforce: still significant gaps in vaccine uptake

More than 39,000 NHS hospital staff in England were absent on 2 January because of COVID-19, up 59% on the previous week and more than three times the number at the start of December.

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Clive Kay said he was worried he could lose more than 1,000 staff unless vaccine uptake improved. Some 10% of the trust’s 14,000-strong workforce are yet to have a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Latest NHS figures for England show there are 84,941 staff in the same position.

London has the highest number of staff yet to have a first dose, with 21,096 yet to be jabbed.

No plans to delay vaccine mandate

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said there were no plans to change the mandatory vaccine timetable.

‘Vaccinations remain our best defence against COVID-19,’ the spokesperson said. ‘This is about patient safety and ensuring we are doing everything we can to reduce risk for vulnerable people.’


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