Local commissioners should support primary care organisations which have low vaccine uptake, NHS England has said following the compulsory vaccine mandate.
Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that staff who have direct contact with patients and ancillary staff such as receptionists will have until 1 April 2022 to get both doses.
In a letter addressed to CCG and ICS leads dated 10 November, NHSE set out that it will work with NHS Employers and the DHSC to develop ‘detailed’ implementation guidance.
However, in the meantime it asked ‘local commissioners and systems to support primary care organisations, particularly where uptake is lower’.
It said that one-to-one conversations with staff have been the ‘most effective way’ to support vaccine hesitant colleagues.
Organisations should therefore ask line managers to host these conversations, NHSE said, specifying these should help staff access to expert clinical advice.
Similarly, it asked senior leaders and clinicians to ‘proactively encourage’ uptake through ‘concerted communication campaigns’ and by working with individual colleagues.
NHSE said it would engage with clinical, BAME networks and faith leaders through its advisory groups to ensure it is appropriately supporting staff.
The Government’s mandate has been the subject of some criticism, despite being broadly welcomed by most staff organisations and representative bodies.
The RCGP has been among the most critical, suggesting the Government’s decision will set a ‘concerning precedent’ and push people out of the workforce.
While the DHSC had previously been advised not to introduce a deadline before spring 2022 to prevent losing staff during the upcoming winter, the RCGP’s Professor Martin Marshall said the workforce is ‘unlikely’ to be in better shape by April.
By contrast, the NHS Confederation said the mandate offered ‘further incentive for staff who are eligible but have not come forward yet’.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘For this reason, we are relieved the Government has listened to our plea to roll out the requirement away from what is expected to be the most challenging winter on record.’
And while the BMA says it still holds ‘serious concerns’ about the mandate, it welcomed the decision to delay the deadline until spring of next year.
‘Given the current staffing crisis in the NHS and the possible implications of trying to introduce such measures in the midst of winter pressures, waiting until April is sensible, but it’s equally important that the Government is aware of the consequences this policy could have even after the delay – and that clear steps are taken to mitigate this risk,’ BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said.
Last month, the union for care workers, GMB, called for the mandatory vaccination policy to be dropped or the sector would face losing tens of thousands of key workers.