The fears of mass layoffs of more than 70,000 NHS workers have prompted the government to consider postponing plans for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, we can reveal.
A temporary suspension of the contentious policy is being “actively” considered by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). According to sources, this is in response to dire warnings from hospital trusts and GPs about the profound effect of staff shortages on services.
Workers in patient-facing duties are required to have two immunizations by April 1st or face dismissal.
Because of the need for a gap between doses, anyone who does not receive their first dose by February 3 will be notified they will be fired, with little chance of redeployment.
Several Tory MPs are vehemently opposed to the mandatory vaccination plan for NHS staff, not least due to the obvious impact a staffing crisis would have on their local hospitals. A pause would also aid Boris Johnson in his battle to avoid a vote of no confidence by his own party.
Pressure on the Prime Minister and Health Secretary to stop the mandatory vaccination programme has increased in the last week as new internal Whitehall documents suggest that two vaccines would not be enough to combat the Omicron variant.
According to an analysis of NHS England data, 80,092 NHS workers have not received a single dose of the COVID vaccine, and a government impact assessment warns that 73,000 patient-facing workers are unjabbed.
Those who are medically exempt would be able to continue working.
The Royal College of Nursing has warned that it would be “self-sabotage” at a time when the NHS is facing staff shortages.
One London trust alone has warned that it may have to lay off 1,600 employees, and many trusts all across the country are said to have asked b England to lobby the DHSC to reconsider.
“We are pressing ahead with the policy.” Was the statement a government source?
MPs, on the other hand, have leapt on a little-noticed indication by Mr. Johnson himself, when he informed lockdown-sceptic backbenchers that “we will reflect on the way forward.”
“Mandatory vaccination of NHS & social care staff is not justified by the evidence – two doses provide weak or no protection against infection [by the Omicron variant], and even after a booster, it wanes quickly after 10 weeks,” Tory backbencher and former government chief whip Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, stated.
“Practically, the NHS and our social care system cannot afford to lose tens of thousands of skilled, dedicated staff at any time, but certainly not now.”
It’s now urgent for the government to rethink, drop the policy, and deliver protection through testing instead.