Welcome to this month’s UK Workforce Policy Update
Through these regular updates we will share with you some of the key developments in different areas of health and care policy, all through publicly available resources.
Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for health workforce
After the much anticipated impact assessment, and parliamentary voting, the UK government is set to roll out its policy of mandatory COVID 19 vaccination program for NHS staff and social workers who have face to face contact with service users. This follows an earlier regulation requiring all care home workers and volunteers (except those medically or otherwise exempt) to be fully vaccinated in order to enter care homes from 11 November 2021. The measures were passed in the House of Commons by a majority vote of 285; passing the Covid vaccine mandate for NHS workers in England into law.
By this policy, England joins France, Greece, Italy, and Hungary who have already made covid vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers and some key public sector workers.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have indicated that they have no plans of implementing mandatory COVID19 vaccination programs for health and social care workers meanwhile Northern Ireland is considering a public consultation on mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for new recruits to the health and social work force.
Current Vaccination Rates
According to data published by NHS England , 93.5% of NHS trust healthcare staff (1,370,176 of 1,453,988) have had their first dose of the covid vaccine and 90.7% (1,330,136) have had their second, though the proportion varies across the country.
It is estimated that about 103,000 frontline workers are unvaccinated in the health and social care sector .The effect of the policy means that NHS workers who have not yet received the jab will have until 1st April 2022 to get vaccinated or risk termination of their contract.
The policy impact assessment statement predicts around 88,000 (73,000 workers in NHS, 15,000 in the independent health sector) and 35,000 workers in domiciliary care and other care services may leave the sector towards the end of the grace period. This reflects what has happened in care homes, and the impact assessment acknowledges that the loss of staff will put further pressure on NHS services.
During the policy consultative phase, there were mixed reactions and policy positions expressed by the various stakeholders.
For instance, while the British Medical Association acknowledges the importance of vaccination and indeed high uptake among doctors, it raised concern about the impact of the policy on the already stretched and fatigued work force due to the risks of forcing some staff out of frontline work.
The Royal College of Nursing, recognises the role of vaccine in infection prevention and encourages its members to get vaccinated but warned that mandating vaccines will further marginalise those who are currently vaccine hesitant and put further pressure on a hugely depleted workforce by forcing people out of employment.
The RCGP argued that informed and educated choices about health interventions would be more beneficial long-term than enforced interventions, which in turn risk resentment and mistrust.
Unite the Union, have argued that all COVID-19 vaccination and COVID-19 testing regimes in the UK should be voluntary and not mandatory. Similarly, UNISON, the UK’s largest union, has called for persuasion and reassurance of health workers, rather than compulsion.
Produced by Daniel Darko, Heather McAdam, Arrash Yassaee