Frontline NHS workers and their representatives have reacted to the Government’s decision to introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for staff.
Both the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the union Unite have called for persuasion rather than a heavy hand when implementing the measure.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that persuasion and not coercion was the best way to drive up vaccination rates, while the RCN believes that support and education would be more effective in increasing uptake across health and care staff.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that frontline NHS workers and social care staff would need to be fully vaccinated to continue in their jobs from 1 April next year.
Anyone without medical exemption and in direct contact with people while providing care will be required to have two doses, said Mr Javid.
Following proper procedures
The move has raised concerns that the mandate could cause a large exodus from the NHS and that enforcing it could create legal risks both in the NHS and for other industries, over potential discrimination in areas like disability, maternity, religion or unfair dismissal.
So the NHS and its HR departments must follow the proper procedures to implement the policy.
The mandate applies to health and wider social care settings regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and includes doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers.
According to the Department of Health, 103,000 people working in the NHS in England remain unvaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccines have already been made compulsory for staff working in care homes in England, with a deadline of 11 November.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet made vaccines compulsory for NHS workers or care home staff. Welsh ministers have announced that they will not make vaccines mandatory.
The latest data on NHS workforce vaccination shows that 93 per cent have received their first dose and 90 per cent have received two doses.
Engage with the small minority
The RCN believes that those who choose not to be vaccinated should be risk assessed by their employer and deployed appropriately.
General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “With the five months until this decision takes effect, the Government and employers must continue to engage with the small minority who have chosen not to have the vaccine.
“This is vital to understanding their concerns, supporting them to understand the importance of the vaccine and to make that important choice.”
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