U-turn on mandatory vaccine plans for healthcare workers welcomed in Portsmouth

A NURSING boss has welcomed a U-turn on plans to make Covid vaccines mandatory for all health and social care workers, saying ‘many’ staff in Portsmouth would have been dismissed as a result.

By Fiona Callingham
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 10:37 am

As reported, health secretary Sajid Javid will be reviewing the original scheme to require jabs for healthcare workers by the beginning of April, following backlash from NHS staff and groups over fears it would lead to mass resignations.

Mr Javid said that the rule was being ‘kept under review’ and it was ‘right’ to reflect on Covid-19 policies, but he added that frontline NHS staff should get vaccinated as a ‘professional duty.’

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Theresa Curry, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) senior regional officer for south Hampshire, told The News: ‘Later this week we were going to see many healthcare staff potentially dismissed in Portsmouth if they hadn’t had their first vaccine. To risk more staff being sacked in the middle of a staffing crisis was never in the interests of patients’ safety.

Vaccination remains hugely important but this was the wrong policy, especially as it added to the current pressure on NHS and care services. Nursing staff are being spread thinner and thinner and struggling to care for their patients safely.’

NHS England data shows 97 per cent of the 7,882 health care workers at the city had received at least one vaccination by the end of December, meaning 233 were unvaccinated at that point.

Of the 7,882, 7,487 workers had received two jabs and 6,483 had received a booster dose.

However, The News understands as of the second week of January, just 95 staff at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust remained unvaccinated – with a ‘handful’ of those in clinical roles.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘I have been pushing for us to explore alternatives to mandatory vaccines in both health and social care, in particular because of workforce pressures, including asking QA for their ideas. Locally we have done really well in getting staff vaccinated, but in other parts of the country they have not been so successful.

‘Ultimately we have to protect patients but I think we can still do that with this more flexible approach.’

However, it is still recognised that the vaccine is ‘the most effective way’ to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘While I welcome this decision in view of the changing situation around the Omicron variant and pressures on NHS staffing, it remains the duty of all us to protect each other – particularly the most vulnerable - against Covid-19. The most effective way to do that is by getting vaccinated.’

And Healthwatch Portsmouth chairman, Roger Batterbury, added: ‘Time has moved on; with Omicron as the dominant variant of Covid-19 which is less impactful than the previously dominant Covid-19 variant of Delta therefore the comparative risk is lower. The vast majority of NHS staff have already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 which has also therefore significantly reduced the risk to people of infection, hospitalisation and onward transmission.

‘There are some frontline NHS staff who have, for a variety of reasons, chosen not to have the Covid vaccination and who told us that they had been feeling they were not able to exercise their choice. The forthcoming consultation on vaccinations for health and care staff will now give them that opportunity to have their say while remaining in the health and social care workforce, continuing to support people with their health and care needs.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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