The Government’s vaccine mandate for all patient-facing staff is to be kept ‘under review’, the health secretary has said, as estimates show thousands of NHS staff may be dismissed.
It comes despite the DHSC telling Management in Practice it had ‘no plans’ to change the implementation date of the policy earlier this week.
Addressing MPs yesterday, Sajid Javid said the plans for compulsory jabs had been drawn up when the Delta variant was the dominant strain in the UK but noted that ‘almost all’ cases are now the ‘intrinsically less severe’ Omicron.
He said: ‘I think it is right in light of Omicron that we reflect on all this and keep all Covid policies properly under review because Omicron is different to Delta, equally we don’t know what the next variant is going to be, but we are reflecting on all this.’
His comments came in response to concerns raised by the Health and Social Care Committee that moving ahead with the mandate could see about 5% of the workforce redeployed or fired.
Government estimates suggest 72,900 will remain unvaccinated by the 1 April deadline, of which 3,000 GP staff could end up removed from patient-facing roles.
The RCGP last week called for the plan to be delayed, noting that general practice ‘simply can’t afford to lose highly-trained staff’.
Despite MPs’ fears, the DHSC told Management in Practice on Monday that ‘ensuring staff are vaccinated is the right thing to do’.
By the current timescale, all staff who are not exempt must get their first dose by 3 February, and their second dose by 31 March.
Last week, Management in Practice set out what practice managers need to know and how the new policy might work.