Mandated jabs for NHS workers should be delayed until April so the NHS can ‘get through winter’

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Making Covid vaccines compulsory for NHS staff should be delayed until the spring because of the ‘very, very’ difficult winter ahead, a health chief said today.

Ministers have just finished a consultation on whether doctors and nurses should be forced to get their jabs, with staff refuse potentially facing the sack.

Last week Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted he was ‘leaning towards’ the ‘no jab, no job’ policy in England, where 100,000 staff are still yet to get their first dose. 

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But today Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS providers, said any deadline should be delayed until April next year so that there are enough workers for winter.

Unions fear hospitals could be left even shorter staffed between January and March — their most difficult time of year — if the plans are brought in.

Mr Hopson also said NHS staff deserved the same ‘five-month’ run up to jabs being made compulsory as those working in the social care sector.

Ministers announced in June care home workers would need to be fully vaccinated or potentially lose their jobs, but gave them until November 11 to get jabbed. 

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Care worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, said today she was resigned to losing her job this week because she was not prepared to get the vaccine.

And Mr Hopson said in Cornwall some homes are already having to draft in nurses from nearby hospitals because of the staffing shortages. 

Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)

Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)

Covid vaccines are set to be compulsory for social care workers from next week. Pictured above is care home worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, who has said she is prepared to lose her job instead of getting the vaccine

Covid vaccines are set to be compulsory for social care workers from next week. Pictured above is care home worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, who has said she is prepared to lose her job instead of getting the vaccine

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Ms Akester has worked in the care sector for 14 years so far. She said she is sad to need to say goodbye to all the residents in the home where she works

Ms Akester has worked in the care sector for 14 years so far. She said she is sad to need to say goodbye to all the residents in the home where she works

Ministers are yet to announce plans to make Covid vaccines compulsory for all NHS workers, unlike those in social care.

But it is increasingly likely that they will become a requirement of employment. The consultation also considered making flu jabs compulsory.

Mr Hopson didn’t reject the proposed ‘no jab, no job’ policy, which would see bosses try to redeploy staff before firing them.

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Care home worker, 36, would rather lose job than get Covid vaccine 

A care home worker has said she would rather lose her job than get the Covid vaccine.

Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, has worked in the sector for almost a decade and a half.

She currently gets tested for the virus three times a week and wears PPE in the home.

But from next week she will be unable to work in the sector, when vaccines become compulsory for staff.

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She told HullLive: ‘I genuinely love my job with all my heart, I only earn minimum wage so believe me it isn’t the money keeping me there.

‘But November 5 will be one of the hardest days of my life when I have to say my goodbyes to all my lovely residents.

‘When I have to leave that building at the end of my final shift knowing that I can no longer return as an employee, all because apparently now I’m not good enough to protect them due to refusing the vaccines.

‘This choice should be my basic human right. I do not deserve to be punished for saying “no”.’

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Ms Akester said she didn’t want to get the Covid vaccine until more was known about the ‘potential long-term side effects’.

Rigorous scientific studies have found the three jabs in use in the UK — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — are safe and slash someone’s risk of hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus.

They were first rolled out in clinical trials more than a year ago.

More than nine in ten adults — or over 45million people — have got at least one dose.

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He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We know — and the chief medical officer has said this really clearly — that we’ve got a very, very difficult winter coming up and we know the NHS is going to be absolutely at full stretch.

‘So, it makes sense to set the deadline once that winter period has passed.

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‘We know that January, February, often early March is very busy, so that’s why we’re saying today that we think an April 2022 deadline is a sensible time.’

Mr Hopson added: ‘If we lose very large numbers of staff over the winter period, then our ability to provide care is also compromised.’

There were almost 100,000 vacancies in England’s NHS between April and June last year, official figures show.

And care homes were also short of almost 112,000 workers, with bosses warning the ‘no jab, no job’ policy would exacerbate the crisis. 

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Addressing the issue in social care, he added: ‘In June, the Government announced it was going to be moving towards mandating staff vaccination, and the deadline they said was mid-November, so there was a five-month run-up.

‘And what we’re saying in the NHS is we need that length of run-up as well.

‘You just need to look at the problems that social care providers are currently reporting and saying: “look, we are really, really struggling at the moment in terms of staff potentially leaving just at the point when we need them”.

‘And indeed some NHS staff are now having to help out, for example in Cornwall, are having to go and help out in the social care sector to ensure that we can discharge people from hospital.’ 

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The vast majority of NHS workers in England — 90 per cent or 1.3million people — have already got both doses of the Covid vaccine figures show.

But there are 105,000 — including nurses and administrative staff — who are still yet to turn up for their first dose.

Less than 10,000 workers got their first jab in the week to October 24, the latest available, despite mounting pressure to get vaccinated.

Women and people from black communities are the least likely NHS staff to have got the Covid vaccine, Mr Hopson said.

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He added that trust leaders were having ‘supportive, encouraging’ conversations with vaccine-hesitant staff to drive up take-up.

He said: ‘One of the things we’re saying today is please can we ensure that we don’t have to quick a deadline so that we can carry on that process and, crucially, we can get through winter.’

In the care sector — where two vaccines will be part of working in homes from next week — some 40,000 employees are yet to get jabbed.

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Care home worker Ms Akester has said she is aware her shift on Saturday — before the vaccination deadline comes in — may be her last at Alderson House in Hull.

Ms Akester, who has worked in the sector for 14 years, claimed she was refusing to get the vaccine until ‘we know more about the potential long-term side effects’.

She claimed it was ‘unfair’ that employees would be required to get both doses while for visitors and residents it is not essential.

Ms Akester, who has worked at the home for three years, told HullLive: ‘When I have to leave that building at the end of my final shift knowing that I can no longer return as an employee, all because apparently now I’m not good enough to protect them due to refusing the vaccines.

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‘This choice should be my basic human right. I do not deserve to be punished for saying “no”.’

She added: ‘I genuinely love my job with all my heart, I only earn minimum wage so believe me it isn’t the money keeping me there.

‘But November 5 will be one of the hardest days of my life when I have to say my goodbyes to all my lovely residents.’

Ms Akester has been getting tested for Covid three times a week, which is currently required for unvaccinated staff working in care homes. 

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Mr Javid last week revealed he was leaning towards making being double-jabbed compulsory for all NHS workers.

He told Sky News: ‘There’s around 100,000 that are not (vaccinated in the NHS) at this point but what we saw with the care sector is that when we announced the policy… then we saw many more people come forward and do the right thing and get vaccinated.’ 

A consultation on whether Covid and flu vaccines should be compulsory for NHS workers was completed on October 22. 

Department of Health sources said its results would be published in ‘due course’.

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