The Royal College of Nursing today calls on Health Secretary Sajid Javid to delay the implementation of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for NHS staff as the service faces major staffing shortages.
The RCN supports the use of vaccines against COVID-19, with its members being at the forefront of the vaccine roll-out. The vast majority of health and social care staff have been double vaccinated.
However, the RCN’s call comes after health trust leaders raised concerns about staff shortages – including a London hospital chief executive who told the BBC that 10% of the 14,000 employees were still unvaccinated.
From April, frontline NHS staff in England will need to have had the COVID-19 vaccination or be redeployed. Those that cannot be redeployed are expected to lose their jobs.
There are around 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS in England alone prior to the policy implementation. The RCN says this, and the unrelenting pressure nursing staff have been under for nearly two years has compromised patient safety.
An impact assessment of the new policy by the Department of Health and Social Care published online suggests that as many as 73,000 NHS staff in England could lose their jobs as a result.
Pat Cullen, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“Nothing matters more to a nurse than caring for their patients safely. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do that.
“We are calling on the Government to recognise this risk and delay a move which by its own calculations looks to backfire. To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.
“Encouraging people to get vaccinated is the best way to boost vaccine take-up. Nursing staff, who are well-placed to understand people’s concerns and are highly trusted by them, have led the COVID-19 vaccination programme and have a key role to play in addressing any concerns people may have about being vaccinated.”
- From the start of April, by law NHS staff in England who have direct face-to-face contact with patients will need to have been vaccinated against Covid
- This includes non-clinical staff who might come across patients, such as receptionists, porters and cleaners as well as frontline nursing and other clinical staff.
- A similar policy has already been brought in for staff working in social care in England.
- The DHSC risk assessment can be found here: Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector: impact assessment (publishing.service.gov.uk)