The DHSC has ‘no plans’ to change the implementation dates for the mandatory vaccine policy despite fears of thousands of dismissals, Healthcare Leader‘s sister title has been told.
Current Government plans state that all NHS staff in patient-facing roles must have had two doses of a Covid vaccine by 1 April.
Under the current timeline, staff must get their first dose by 3 February, and their second dose by 31 March, or face redeployment or dismissal.
But the i newspaper reported this weekend that the controversial policy is being ‘actively’ reviewed by the DHSC.
However, the Government has rejected the report, stating there are no plans to change the implementation dates for this policy.
A spokesperson told Management in Practice: ‘Health and social care workers look after the most vulnerable people in society, who could face serious health consequences if exposed to the virus.
‘Ensuring staff are vaccinated is the right thing to do to protect patients and those in care. The vast majority of NHS staff have had the vaccine which is our best defence against Covid-19.’
Unions have been calling on the Government for several weeks to delay its plans and avoid a ‘catastrophic impact’ on staffing.
RCGP says mandate risks ‘resentment and mistrust’
It comes after the RCGP warned the Government that the mandate ‘risks leading to resentment and mistrust’ and at a time when general practice ‘simply can’t afford to lose highly-trained staff’.
Professor Martin Marshall, RCGP chair, said: ‘A delay to the vaccination deadline that has been set would allow more time to address concerns and hesitancies that unvaccinated people working in the NHS may have about getting vaccinated and encourage them to think otherwise.’
It also creates a window of opportunity to have a ‘national conversation’ about whether mandating Covid-19 vaccinations is necessary.
The College maintains it has ‘always been opposed’ to compulsory vaccines as a term of employment.
Practices could lose 3,000 GP staff
On Monday, Healthcare Leader’s sister title Pulse reported that the Covid vaccine mandate could mean 3,000 GP staff will be removed from patient-facing roles.
An impact assessment document published by DHSC calculated that 3.8% (≈3,400) of the 89,000 patient-facing GP staff will be unvaccinated when the rules come into force.
It estimated that around 400 of these will be exempt.
The total number of staff who will be unvaccinated by the final deadline represent 4.7% of the total estimate of 72,900 in-scope NHS workers who will remain unvaccinated by the end of the grace period.
However, the document noted that ‘it is not possible at this point to predict how many and when staff may not be deployable’.
It also raised concerns that the mandate will see more women switch roles than men, given that woman make up more than 80% of the practice workforce, suggesting they will be ‘disadvantaged’.
Similarly, staff from an ethnic minority background will likely be negatively affected by the mandate given greater levels of vaccine hesitancy among some ethnic minority groups.
ONS data from last week suggest that Covid booster uptake is as low as a third among some minority communities.