The Government’s U-turn on mandatory vaccines for the NHS workforce ‘damaged trust’ between staff and their employers, the DHSC has been told.
According to the NHS Confederation, ‘poor communication’ and the last-minute change in direction exacerbated uncertainty and distrust, follow what was ‘already an emotionally charged and divisive policy decision’.
The policy would have seen all NHS staff in a patient-facing role need two Covid-19 vaccines by 1 April, or otherwise risk redeployment or termination.
But health secretary Sajid Javid then announced the Government no longer believed the mandate was necessary – just two days before the deadline for first doses (3 February) – and that it would be scrapped subject to parliamentary approval.
Responding to the consultation, which closed yesterday (16 February), the NHS Confederation said that the way in which the decision to pause the mandate processes was made created ‘a significant amount of ill-feeling’.
It urged the Government to avoid replicating the same ‘errors’ in communicating the consultation outcome.
In particular, staff should learn the outcome directly rather than through media reporting, it said.
Leaders need clarity urgently
Workforce leaders need ‘time, space with a period of certainty’ to allow for relationships and trust to be mended, the Confederation said.
This follows several weeks of apprehension as leaders were slowly drip-fed guidance, with some employers encouraged to reach out to staff who had quit over the mandate.
The Confederation said: ‘Employers are now seeking certainty and clarity on the future of this policy including ensuring that employers are not required to introduce mandatory vaccination as a condition of future employment.’
It added: ‘Only an outcome that clarifies that it won’t be a future requirement will avoid further anxiety and dissatisfaction among our staff.’
Further information is also needed to clarify that there will be no requirement for new starters to be vaccinated, it said.
NHS services were recently advised by the BMA to continue risk assessing unvaccinated staff before placing them in non-patient-facing roles, despite the scrapping of the Covid vaccine mandate.