As a health trade union representing over 100,000 workers in the NHS, Unite has strongly encouraged our members to be vaccinated through our “Get a jab campaign”. Despite this, Unite, believe the vaccination programme should not be mandatory in order to be deployed in the NHS for patient-facing employees.
Ahead of the Parliamentary vote on Tuesday December 14, we ask MPs not to support mandatory vaccination for NHS staff as a condition of deployment being implemented from April 1, 2022.
There are many reasons why we believe this is an unnecessary step and rather than bringing safety and reassurance to the public, it could place NHS services under greater strain and uncertainty.
In England, vaccination of NHS staff is relatively high with 1st dose vaccination running at 93% for and 2nd doses vaccination runs at 89%.
The UK Government is out of kilter with the rest of the UK on this issue and runs against World Health Organisation recommendations against mandatory vaccinations for Covid-19.
Vaccination as a condition of deployment risks a false sense of security for both patients and staff as vaccination does not eliminate Covid-19 transmission, while evidence suggests increased levels of PPE is an effective measure.
We would like to see more attempts to persuade English NHS employees to take the vaccine on a voluntary basis and engage with employees to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
We want to see further efforts made to focus on the persuasive conversations needed, particularly with those from occupations or in organisations with lower take-up rates of the vaccine.
The Government’s own Equality Impact Assessment does indicate that there are higher levels of vaccine hesitancy among some ethnic minority groups and groups that observe particular religions, therefore the potentially discriminatory impacts of mandating the vaccine have not been fully considered.
We fear this decision by Ministers hinders efforts to recruit and retain NHS employees.
Mandating vaccination as a condition of employment would further exacerbate the vacancies that already exist in the NHS and social care system and hinder our prospects for the system to recover from the pandemic when it is clear people are the key asset to deliver our health goals for patients and the community. Further loss of frontline NHS employees would add pressure to a service which is already at breaking point.
Application of this policy would divert vital NHS management and leadership resources into processing the operational, human resource and contractual consequences of the implementation of the policy.
We also believe the Government can take further preventative measures like social distancing, better ventilation in workplaces and PPE of sufficient standard, like the provision of FFP3 masks, made available to those employees that need it on a no questions asked basis.
Regular testing regimes can continue to offer security to co-workers and patients, where the small minority of health care workers refrain from vaccination outside of those that abstain for medical reasons.
By Unite the Union