Frontline NHS staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid, the Health Secretary has announced.
A deadline is likely to be set for 1 April next year to give unvaccinated staff sufficient time to get both doses, Sajid Javid told the Commons.
In an address in the commons today (Tuesday November 9), Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new rule for all those working in the NHS and social care will be introduced from April 1, and exemptions will be given to those who do not have face to face contact with patients and those who are medically exempt.
There will not be any vaccine requirements for flu jabs “at this stage”, but this will be kept under review, Mr Javid said.
The government has made it mandatory for staff in registered care homes in England to have both vaccinations as a condition of employment unless they are exempt for valid medical reasons.
From this Thursday (November 11), it will be a legal requirement for staff who are not exempt to be double vaccinated if they are to continue in their roles.
In a statement to MPs, the Health Secretary said responses to the consultation showed support for vaccination to become a condition and concerns that some people might choose to leave their jobs, but having considered the responses, as well as advice from his officials and NHS leaders, he decided that all those working in the NHS and social care would have to be vaccinated, he said.
“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and, of course, protect the NHS itself. No-one should scapegoat or single out anyone in the NHS or social care that has for whatever reason… at this point chosen not to get vaccinated.
“This is all about working with them positively, making sure they have the information they need.”
Elena Cooper, employment consultant at Discreet Law comments: “A decision which has been expected for some time, and eminently sensible, if care home workers must be double-jabbed, why not NHS workers? We believe this is welcome news for all. However, as we know, some employees, for non-medical and non-religious belief reasons will continue to refuse the jab. What do employers do? Case law will assist, in time, but we continue to maintain, if there is no alternative option, and your health and safety obligations towards your employees is at risk, it is possible to terminate employees who are refusing the vaccine, and who are not exempt due to protected characteristics. Even those with protected characteristics may safely have their employment brought to an end, but the most thorough processes need to be followed. Thank you NHS workers for all you’ve done, but please get jabbed so you can continue doing your outstanding work..”
Christopher Hitchins, employment partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP comments: “It’s a sign that while the Government is reluctant to mandate vaccination in all workplaces but would rather encourage vaccine and booster uptake, in line with the cultural tone that they’ve set that it is seen as a freedom of choice up to a point, it is also a recognition from the Government that people who have been vaccinated would appear to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus in particular in areas where there are a collection of vulnerable people, such as a care home or hospital.”