Dr Simon Festing image

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has welcomed official guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) prioritising frontline health and social care workers in the vaccine rollout programme.

The association has now stressed the need to ensure no eligible workers in the healthcare industry are overlooked.

It comes at the start of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout programme, with the government aiming to vaccinate 13 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

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In a recent letter published by NHSEI on 7 January 2021, the NHS outlined its plans to vaccinate those frontline staff “at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a healthcare environment.”

The decision to vaccinate frontline health and social workers follows the recommendations of an independent report from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) published on 30 December 2020, proposing “the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems.”

Welcoming the plans to vaccinate frontline health and social care workers, the BHTA has reinforced the need for a clear process to be in place to ensure eligible staff from its member companies are included amongst those who are next in line.

According to the association, it estimates that its members have over 100,000 face-to-face interactions with patients with long-term conditions, disabled and elderly people each week.

BHTA members play a vital role in the maintenance of health and social care systems and providing safe access to vital equipment needed to keep vulnerable people safe during lockdown. This goes further than the most obvious frontline staff, for example including retailers or service providers who provide mobility equipment.

Simon Festing, CEO of the British Healthcare Trades Association, said: “The BHTA and its members support the approach to prioritise frontline health and social care workers for vaccine delivery and wish to thank the NHS for the efforts made.

“It is important that there is now a clear process to be in place to ensure eligible staff from our member companies are included amongst those who are next in line.

“Staff employed by our member companies interact continuously with those who are disabled, or have long-term conditions, or are frail or elderly. This can be in a wide range of settings, including retail and service provision, and these wider health and social care settings should not be overlooked.

“We will continue to work constructively with key stakeholders within the NHS and central government to champion the contribution of the industry, which is essential to ensure disabled and elderly people remain safe, mobile and independent; this is all the more vital now to help relieve pressure on the NHS.”

Representing over 430 companies in the healthcare and assistive technology industry, the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) supports its members to help ensure the best outcomes for the most vulnerable in society. All BHTA members commit to the BHTA Code of Practice – the only code in the industry approved by The Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

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