COVID-19 vaccine image

Following the UK Government’s announcement that all frontline health and social care workers in England will need to have had both COVID-19 vaccines by 1 April 2022 in order to be deployed, this has sparked a mixed response from organisations within the sector.

The announcement means that health and social care workers in England who have face-to-face contact with patients, including voluntary workers, health and care providers, people contracted to do work in health and social care settings, and non-clinical staff, will have to provide evidence of being fully protected against COVID-19 from April next year.

In the government’s impact statement of these new measures, it predicts that around 126,000 staff members across both health and social care will remain unvaccinated (and not exempt) – roughly 73,000 within the NHS, 38,000 across social care, and 15,000 in the independent health sector. This equates to 5.4 percent of all employees across both sectors.

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NHS Confederation’s chief executive believes mandating the vaccines is positive and that it prevents both staff and patients from avoidable infections while the threat of the virus is still prevalent. He added that the announcement comes ahead of what is supposed to be the “most challenging winter on record”.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive at the NHS Confederation, stated: “Staff across the NHS recognise their duty to make sure they do everything they can to protect their patients, colleagues and themselves from avoidable infections. This is why the vast majority of workers have been vaccinated against coronavirus already and why health leaders will take forward this new requirement.

“Mandating Covid-19 vaccinations in the NHS offers a further incentive for staff who are eligible but have not come forward yet to get jabbed at time when the virus continues to be a threat and the NHS is working hard to deliver its broader services for patients.

“For this reason, we are relieved the Government has listened to our plea to roll out the requirement away from what is expected to be the most challenging winter on record.

“This will also give leaders much needed time to continue to engage and support the remaining staff who have not yet been vaccinated and to understand the possible consequences at a local level.”

In stark contrast, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s (CSP’s) chief executive says she opposes the compulsory COVID-19 vaccination announcement, citing issues relating to a false sense of security among workers, a lack of available alternatives, and unfairness.

Karen Middleton, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Chief Executive, responded: “We are pro-vaccination and have been actively working with employers and encouraging all of our members working across all areas of the health system to take it up.

“However we strongly oppose making the Covid vaccine mandatory. We believe all healthcare professionals should get vaccinated if appropriate but we also believe we need greater engagement with those who are hesitant to understand their position and see what can be done.

“We are also concerned that this decision may create a sense of false security among staff that has an impact on the use of PPE and other protective measures.

“Mandatory vaccination is a blunt tool that could prove counter-productive at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.”

The society added that making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for health and social care workers might prove counter-productive and is “inequitable”.

CSP also noted that unions have expressed concerns about the lack of alternatives available for staff who haven’t had their jabs, such as daily testing.

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