Trusts will redouble efforts to encourage NHS staff vaccination to avoid job losses and risks to patient safety

14 January 2022

Responding to the publication of phase two guidance by the NHS on vaccination as a condition of deployment for healthcare workers, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

"Trust leaders do not underestimate how complex and challenging implementing this policy will be for their organisations and their frontline staff.

"Over the coming weeks, trusts will redouble their efforts to persuade vaccine hesitant colleagues that it is best for patients, colleagues, loved ones and for themselves to get jabbed to minimise the risk of cross-infection. We have seen first-hand how initiatives such as education campaigns and individual conversations are driving up vaccination rates, with 94% of NHS trust staff now having had at least their first dose.

"But with 3 February fast approaching – the deadline by which workers need to have had their first dose to be fully vaccinated by the time the regulations come into force – it is concerning that significant numbers of patient facing staff remain unvaccinated.

"And despite the best efforts of trusts to encourage vaccine hesitant staff to have their jabs, today's guidance is crystal clear: unless they are exempt, staff who choose not to be vaccinated or cannot be redeployed will unfortunately have to be dismissed from their roles.

Trust leaders have consistently warned that the potential loss of staff who decide not to be vaccinated at a time when the service is under huge operational pressure and already grappling with nearly 100,000 vacancies is the main risk from this policy.

Saffron Cordery    Deputy Chief Executive

"Trust leaders have consistently warned that the potential loss of staff who decide not to be vaccinated at a time when the service is under huge operational pressure and already grappling with nearly 100,000 vacancies is the main risk from this policy. Indeed, we highlighted this in our survey. It showed over 90% of trust leaders – regardless of whether they supported mandatory vaccinations or not – were concerned about the potential for additional staffing gaps in both the NHS and social care should a requirement be introduced.

"Equally, we cannot ignore the fact that the potential loss of significant numbers of staff from frontline duties on 1 April, when these regulations come into force, could – in extreme circumstances – have an impact on patient services. We need to be clear in advance about how we will resolve the hopefully small number of instances where service viability and safety could be at risk and today's guidance provides additional steps in helping to manage potential disruption.

"We are aware that some organisations are calling for a delay or a moratorium in the implementation of this policy due to the impact of the Omicron variant on COVID-19 related absences amongst healthcare staff at a time of heightened operational pressure. But we don't think that is the answer.

"Our survey of trust leaders found that while there was a range of views towards a policy of mandatory vaccinations, a majority backed this policy as a means of protecting colleagues, patients, and visitors from cross infection by unvaccinated staff. There continues to be support amongst trust leaders for this approach.

"Trust leaders will continue to do everything they can to support vaccine hesitant staff while managing the significant risks presented by this policy in the coming weeks. But the mandatory vaccination policy and the consequences of staff not being fully vaccinated by the 1 April deadline are clear. No trust leader remotely relishes the prospect of dismissing their staff but they are obliged to implement the law."

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