Mandatory vaccination: an important question but there are alternative approaches

16 June 2021

Responding to reports that the government proposes to publish consultations for mandatory COVID-19 and flu jabs for all health and care staff, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

"Mandatory staff vaccination raises a range of complex employment, legal, ethical, and practical questions for trusts, given that they employ over 1.3 million of the NHS' 1.6 million staff. They will therefore welcome the government's decision to hold formal consultations on this issue.

"Trust leaders understand the need to protect patients and staff in healthcare settings by ensuring that vaccination rates, which are key in stopping the spread of contagious and deadly infections, are as high as they possibly can be.

"Our members have been pleased by the very high take up of both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu jab year on year. Recent statistics show more than 82% of NHS staff have had both COVID-19 jabs compared to 57% of the wider population.

"And where staff have been unsure about having the vaccine, trust leaders have worked hard to give them the support they need, dispelling myths, and sharing information about the benefits of vaccinations. Trust leaders report that this approach of 'rational, calm, individual discussions' has reaped dividends with significant increases in uptake rates.

"There are different views about mandation within the trust leadership community and we will reflect those views in our responses to the consultations when they are published. But many trust leaders will ask whether the introduction of mandatory vaccination for the flu and COVID-19 jab for NHS staff is the right approach to take at this point.

"There are alternative approaches – such as continuing to invest in individual conversations and requiring a flu or COVID-19 injection as a condition of employment for all new entrants to the NHS. This is, of course, very different to retrospectively imposing this condition for all existing employees.

"Trust leaders are clear that, if the government does proceed, it will need to fully think through the consequences of mandation, including the need for trusts, if required, to potentially suspend and dismiss staff who refuse to have a vaccination at a time when the NHS already has significant vacancy rates."

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