Covid vaccines will become mandatory for NHS staff from April 2022, it has been reported.
It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week told Sky News he was ‘leaning towards’ mandating two Covid jabs for staff ‘as soon as possible’.
An official announcement is due by Thursday, the i newspaper has reported. This is expected to reveal that both Covid-19 and flu vaccinations will be mandatory for all NHS staff in England.
However, the move has been criticised as it will risk pushing vaccine-hesitant staff out of the workforce.
Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive, warned on Monday that the deadline for mandatory vaccination should come ‘no sooner than April 2022’ to prevent losing staff during the upcoming winter.
He said: ‘If we do it with careful thought the introduction of mandatory vaccination does potentially provide a prompt to have further conversations with those who, for a number of reasons, are vaccine hesitant but the Government must recognise the risk of losing unvaccinated frontline staff and support efforts to maximise voluntary take up first.’
This week, in its response to the Government’s consultation on the issue, the Royal College of Nursing warned that healthcare staff refusing to be vaccinated against Covid need to be supported and educated by nurse experts rather than being forced into receiving the jabs.
If staff then continue to refuse the vaccine, they should then be risk assessed and ‘deployed appropriately’ to lower risk areas, it suggested.
Speaking to Management in Practice, Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP partner in northeast London and clinical director for Newham Central 1 PCN, said: ‘It’s a complex issue especially as we can’t afford to lose staff in a sector which already has thousands of vacancies.
‘However, NHS staff have a responsibility to protect themselves and the patients they serve.’
She added that while she remained hopeful NHS workers would come forward, for those who do not, ‘mandating this is a necessary step to protect our most vulnerable in society’.
Data released last week revealed that the uptake rate for second doses of the Covid vaccine stands at 91% among GP practice staff, while uptake for the booster shot stood at 51%, in line with the wider national rate.
Mandatory social care jabs
This comes just a week before the mandate comes into force on 11 November for all staff working in or entering care homes, which includes GPs.
The impact assessment – which was published in July – found that the main anticipated impact was the ‘displacement of workers’ who have not received two doses by the end of the 16-week grace period.
It was later announced that care home managers and service providers are expected to cover employee shortfalls caused by mandatory vaccination of staff themselves.
Last month, the union for care workers, GMB, called for the mandatory vaccination policy to be dropped or the sector would face losing tens of thousands of key workers.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, had said: ‘Forcing vaccination of our key workers is not the way to address vaccine hesitancy.
‘Care is already facing a staffing black hole of 170,000 by the end of the year. Even in a best-case scenario we will lose tens of thousands of key workers if the jab is forced on them.’