Around 126,000 frontline health and social care staff in England could risk losing their jobs next spring after refusing to have mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, according to Government estimates.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid announced yesterday that all patient-facing staff working in CQC-regulated settings England must receive both Covid-19 jabs by April 2022. He initially only rolled out the policy to care homes, with the deadline to receive the second dose on 11 November.
But the Government’s impact assessment of the policy warned that 73,000 NHS staff, 15,000 independent health sector staff and 38,000 social care staff (working outside of care homes) may refuse to be vaccinated. This equates to 5.4% of the workforce eligible for vaccination.
The document acknowledges ‘the impact on workforce levels and health and care services could be significant’, although it said ‘it is not clear how many workers will lose their jobs’.
Mr Javid said vaccine uptake for NHS staff in England is 93% for the first dose and 90% for two doses. This leaves more than 103,00 people who work for the NHS remain unvaccinated, he added.
‘It’s hard to know what portion of that number will take up the offer of vaccination. If we look at what has happened with social care – care homes – since that policy was announced, there was a significant fall in the equivalent number and I think we can certainly expect that here,’ he said.
The spring deadline was set to allow unvaccinated staff to receive both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and ‘minimise risks to workforce capacity over the winter period’, the Government said.
Responding to the announcement, RCN chief executive Pat Cullen urged the Government and employers to ‘continue to engage’ with vaccine-hesitant staff.
‘This is vital to understanding their concerns, supporting them to understand the importance of the vaccine and to make that important choice,’ she said.
The RCN last week argued healthcare staff refusing to be vaccinated against Covid need to be supported and educated by nurse experts rather than being forced into receiving the jabs.
The deadline for care home staff to receive their second Covid-19 vaccine is 11 November, with many providers reporting that workforce shortages have been exacerbated by the policy.