Health

More than 80,000 unvaccinated NHS workers face the sack

Tens of thousands of NHS staff who have not had the Covid vaccine face the sack in just a fortnight. 

All frontline workers who have not received a jab will be called into formal meetings from February 4 and given a warning that they face dismissal.

NHS England guidance states notices will then be issued from that day, with March 31 marking the end of the notice period. 

All frontline staff are required to have both doses of the Covid jab by April 1, meaning that by February 3 the first must have been given.

Managers have been advised they can move unvaccinated medics from the frontline into roles which do not involve direct patient contact. Bosses won’t have to help staff find ‘suitable alternative employment’ and redundancy payments will not be made to those who are dismissed. 

The document states: ‘It is important to note this is not a redundancy exercise. 

‘In the context of the regulations, there is no diminishment or cessation of work of a particular kind. 

‘Employers will not be concerned with finding “suitable alternative employment” and there will be no redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual, triggered by this process.’

More than 80,000 staff, which accounts for 6 per cent of the NHS’s entire workforce, remain unvaccinated. The Government’s own estimates last year suggested that the move could lead to 73,000 workers leaving the health service.

Unions have warned that if the ‘no jab, no job’ policy goes ahead in April it will have a ‘catastrophic impact’ on the health service. A similar rule was imposed on the social care sector in November.

In some trusts, as many as 12 per cent of staff have not been vaccinated, meaning those hospitals could lose more than one in 10 workers if they do not come forward for the vaccine in the coming weeks. The top 10 trusts with the lowest vaccine uptake among staff are all in London or Birmingham

People arrive at Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, which has one of the lowest vaccine uptake among staff in England, with 11 per cent of staff yet to have their first jab

People arrive at Royal London Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, which has one of the lowest vaccine uptake among staff in England, with 11 per cent of staff yet to have their first jab

An ambulance outside Whipps Cross University Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, where just 89 per cent of staff have their first Covid vaccine

An ambulance outside Whipps Cross University Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, where just 89 per cent of staff have their first Covid vaccine

In some trusts, as many as 12 per cent of staff have not been vaccinated, according to NHS figures.

It means some hospitals face the prospect of losing more than one in 10 workers if they do not come forward for the jab in the coming fortnight.

The top 30 NHS trusts with the lowest vaccine uptake among staff are almost all in London or Birmingham. 

NHS organisations have also been told they should provide warning to regulators if they find certain areas will be hit by staffing shortages and threaten patient safety.

Those who have been vaccinated will be asked for their Covid pass to prove their status or alternatively their exemption evidence. 

The same ‘no jab, no job’ policy was rolled out in the social care sector in November, with estimates suggesting 60,000 workers were still to be vaccinated at that point.

Care chiefs warned the move would cripple the already struggling sector, leading to deaths among residents in homes with ‘unsafe’ staffing levels.

The NHS warned earlier this month that one in five beds were occupied by patients who are medically fit to leave but cannot, with many waiting on social care support to be discharged. 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for the policy for NHS staff to be ‘delayed with immediate effect’ to avoid similar shortages among key workers.

It said the NHS ‘cannot afford to lose experienced and skilled staff’. 

And medical trade unions said the policy should be pushed back to give hospitals more time to persuade staff to come forward for an injection.

The Royal College of Nursing said the move ‘looks set to backfire’ and is ‘an act of self-sabotage’, while the Royal College Midwives warned compulsory vaccines will ‘only see staffing levels fall further’ and have a ‘catastrophic impact’.

And the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts in England, said hospitals’ frontline staff will be pushed out of their roles, leading to ‘more gaps in capacity at a time of intense pressure and patient demand’.

But Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said vaccines are ‘the best protection against the virus’ and the ‘overwhelming majority’ of medics have already been double-jabbed. 

‘NHS employers will continue to support and encourage staff who have not yet been vaccinated to take up the offer of the first and second doses ahead of the April 1, when regulations come into effect,’ he said. 

There were already concerns about health worker shortages before the pandemic struck, with the NHS short of approximately 100,000 staff.

Meanwhile, Omicron has triggered a staffing crisis of its own. 

Some 40,000 workers were isolating for Covid-related reasons on January 9, with the rising level of absences forcing hospitals to declare staffing emergencies over the past month.   

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