Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that frontline NHS and social care staff will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by April in order to keep their jobs.
Mr Javid made the announcement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, saying “we must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself”.
The announcement comes after it was announced earlier in the year that COVID-19 vaccination is being made mandatory for all care home workers.
The new move by the Government is expected to affect all NHS and social care staff, except from those who are medically exempt or do not have face-to-face contact with patients.
Mr Javid said the decision had been made to mandate vaccination following a consultation and advice from officials. Around 10% of NHS staff are thought to not be fully vaccinated against the virus.
The policy is set to be voted on by MPs before it is enacted. When announced on Tuesday, both Labour and Conservative MPs shared concerns over the potential of the policy to exacerbate staff shortages in health and social care, and urged the government to issue a plan to combat such a situation.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive said “The NHS has always been clear that staff should get the life-saving COVID vaccination to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients”, adding, that the “overwhelming majority” of NHS staff have already taken up the offer of vaccination.
Karolina Gerlich, CEO of the Care Workers’ Charity raised concerns over staffing issues in the care sector and said “we are disappointed in today’s announcement which will make vaccination a condition of deployment in health and wider social care settings which will impact not only healthcare staff, but also former social care workers who were forced to leave the sector to move to the NHS, where they hoped they could avoid the impact of this arbitrary legislation”.
Gerlich added, “as a charity we encourage people to get vaccinated but we believe everyone should have the right to choose. We call on the Government to urgently look into recalling this legislation, and addressing the multitude of devastating factors which are in their power to change”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock had backed mandatory vaccinations, saying “there is no respectable argument left not to force health and social care workers to get jabbed”.