GP practices must risk assess unvaccinated staff and consider whether they should be placed in non-patient-facing roles, despite the scrapping of the Covid vaccine mandate.
The BMA’s latest GP Committee bulletin, sent yesterday, said the BMA ‘welcomed’ the announcement that Covid vaccination will not be a legal requirement for patient-facing healthcare staff ‘due to the policy’s potentially devastating impact on workforce numbers’.
However, it added that there ‘is still a professional responsibility for health and social care staff to be vaccinated’ and ‘also a requirement for employers to ensure that employees are protected from infection’.
‘Non-vaccinated people should therefore be identified and their role should be risk assessed to identify whether or not they should be redeployed into a non-patient-facing role.’
Each individual case ‘will be different depending on the level of risk, the potential other mitigations, the reasons for not getting vaccinated and the practice setup,’ the BMA said.
Its guidance on Covid risk assessments, reviewed this week, said: ‘If you are identified as being at high risk, your employer should take steps to mitigate the risk as far as they are able.
‘These steps could include alternative clinical or non-clinical work where the risk of contracting Covid-19 is lower based on an environmental risk assessment and/or supporting remote working where possible.’
It added: ‘If you are a GP partner and are concerned about the impact on your practice as a result of staff being removed from front-line patient care, your CCG should provide you with support to ensure you can continue to deliver services.’
Previously, there had been fears that up to 3,000 GP staff would have had to be dismissed due to the mandate, as NHS England guidance said redeployment into non-patient-facing roles was ‘not guaranteed’.
It comes as the GMC has said that a doctor being unvaccinated against Covid will not, by itself, trigger a fitness-to-practise (FTP) investigation – although it is a ‘professional duty’.
It followed the health secretary writing to the GMC and other medical regulators to emphasise the importance of Covid vaccination – ensuring that their guidance sent ‘a clear message’ to registrants – after deciding to scrap mandatory vaccines last week.
The DHSC’s consultation on revoking the mandatory requirement also stressed that it is the ‘professional duty’ of health care workers to be fully jabbed against Covid.
It announced a separate DHSC consultation on reviewing the code of practice – with a view to ‘strengthening’ providers’ ‘obligations’ – and that DHSC will engage with NHS England to reassess its policies on hiring new unvaccinated staff and how current staff who are unvaccinated are deployed.
Meanwhile, NHS England said this week that GP practices should get in touch with staff who quit over the Covid vaccine mandate to discuss reinstating them in their role.