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Vaccine rollout a success so far but RCN warns agency and temporary nursing staff at risk of being left behind

9 Feb 2021

Government must redouble efforts to reach key nursing staff as survey shows majority of those who hadn’t received or been offered the vaccine are employed outside the NHS.

Nurse holding COVID-19 vaccine

With more than 24,000 responses, a recent survey by the RCN found that 85% of respondents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 7% who had received both doses. This is a significant achievement for the vaccination programme, which nursing staff are key to delivering. 

However, 15% of respondents hadn’t received the vaccine and the results show that of those who haven’t yet been offered it, 70% work in non-NHS settings.  

Overall, regardless of where they worked, more than two in five agency nursing staff and one in four temporary staff, who often cover short-staffed areas, had not received a vaccine – compared to just one in eight hospital workers.  

As we approach the government’s target date of having all frontline health and care staff vaccinated by 15 February, the RCN is calling on the government to redouble its efforts to reach agency and temporary nursing staff who are being left behind in the vaccination programme.  

The RCN has been providing advice and support to members who’ve been having trouble accessing the COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to monitor the provision and uptake of the vaccine among health care workers and further analyse our survey responses to gain a deeper understanding of any issues associated with specific groups, geographies, workforce settings or roles that need to be addressed.  

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Temporary and agency staff work in our communities and hospitals, with patients and the public – and they face the same level of risk as their NHS colleagues. Every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure the protection of patients and vulnerable people.  

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance is clear that the COVID-19 vaccine should be available to all health and social care staff. This is irrespective of where they are employed, including agency staff and those employed in the independent sectors.   

“Employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring all their staff are able to access the vaccine. But the government must intervene now, as our members have proven this is clearly not the case.”  

Our COVID-19 vaccination FAQs provide information compiled by RCN advisers in public health, infection control and employment relations. They’re continually updated as things develop. Members are advised to check the advice or call RCN Direct 0345 772 6100 if they continue to have problems accessing the vaccine.


Page last updated - 11/01/2022