The lance for mandatory Covid-19 jabs for frontline health workers in England could “backfire”, the Royal College of Nursing has warned as it called for a delay in the new policy.
It said sacking valuable nursing staff during this crisis would be “an act of self-sabotage” as the NHS faces a huge staff shortage.
The warning comes as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which said current staff absenteeism is at its highest level since the pandemic began, the policy could have a significant impact on maternity services.
RCM said the sector has “chronic shortage” issues – with an estimated shortage of around 2,000 midwives, it added.
Both colleges have called for an immediate delay in planning for mandatory COVID-19 jabs for frontline staff, who should be fully vaccinated by April 1 with two jabs – meaning their first vaccine is due on February 3. Was Needed.
RCNs believe that those who do not have vaccinations and cannot be re-employed are expected to lose their jobs.
RCN says the unbelievable pressure nursing staff has been under for nearly two years and patient safety has been compromised due to the nearly 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS in England.
The government’s own impact assessment has warned that up to 73,000 NHS workers could be lost in England, making the nursing workforce crisis worse.
Pat Cullen, RCN’s general secretary and CEO, said: “Nothing matters more to a nurse than to safely care for her patients. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do this.
“We are calling on the government to recognize this risk and delay a move that seems counterintuitive by its calculations.
“Sacking valuable nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.
“Encouraging people to get vaccinated is the best way to promote the vaccine.
“Nursing staff, who are well positioned to understand people’s concerns and are highly trusted by them, have spearheaded the COVID-19 vaccination program and have been instrumental in addressing any concerns people may have about vaccination. has played.”
It should come as no surprise that employee absenteeism is at its highest at the moment in the pandemic. Going ahead with compulsory vaccination could only see a further drop in staffing levels.
RCM Chief Executive Gil Walton said: “Since the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine, RCM has been urging its qualified midwifery and maternity support worker members to have jabs at protecting themselves, their families, and women and families. care for.
“We believe this is the right thing to do and we believe in science.
“However, we do not believe that compulsory vaccination is the right approach, and have actively argued against the proposal.
“The level of vaccination in the NHS is high and rising and we must use discussion, persuasion and education to increase vaccination among NHS staff, not the hammer blow of making it mandatory.”
She said: “I appeal to the Health Secretary to reconsider his decision and delay the implementation.
“During the pandemic, maternity workers have struggled to keep services open and provide the best care possible to women and families.
“It has been incredible and it is therefore no surprise that staff absenteeism is currently at an all-time high in the pandemic. Going ahead with compulsory vaccination could only see a further drop in staffing levels.
“The government has opened a Pandora’s box of unforeseen consequences – but now is an opportunity to close it. We are urging Sajid Javid to do just that.”
The call comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid was challenged about the proposal by an unvaccinated ICU doctor.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The NHS and care workers do wonderful work and we are grateful to those who have chosen to get the vaccine.
“Health and social care workers are responsible for caring for some of society’s most vulnerable, many of whom are more likely to suffer serious health consequences if exposed to the virus.
“It is about patient safety, and making sure people in hospital or care have as much protection as possible. Vaccination is our best defense against COVID-19.”