United Kingdom

NHS staff could be forced to have Covid jab under radical plans being reviewed by ministers

NHS workers could be forced to have Covid jabs under plans being discussed by ministers.

The Mail can reveal that a review of vaccine passports will consider whether health staff who decline an injection could be legally obliged to have one.

The review is also expected to look at whether compulsion should apply to care home staff, most of whom are not employed by the state.

Ministers believe the move could cut the virus death toll and limit delays to the easing of lockdown.

However there are major legal and moral issues as well as uncertainty as to what could happen to those who still refuse to be inoculated.

As many as 200,000 NHS and care employees have refused the offer of a jab so far, despite working in close proximity to the vulnerable.

‘It is extraordinary that so many people in the health sector appear to have turned down the vaccine,’ a Cabinet source told the Mail. 

The Mail can reveal that a review of vaccine passports will consider whether health staff who decline an injection could be legally obliged to have one. Pictured: A library image of a vaccinator administering the jab to a patient in Darlington

Ministers believe the move could cut the virus death toll and limit delays to the easing of lockdown. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a vaccination centre on Monday

‘It seems incredible that anyone working in that environment could give any credence to the rubbish put out by the anti-vaxxers. But we do need to get those people vaccinated.’

A spokesman for NHS England last night said many trusts were reporting that nine out of ten staff had had the jab.

But ministers are keen to see the rate get as close to 100 per cent as possible because of the serious risks posed by hospital-acquired infections.

Official figures last week revealed that 28 per cent of care home staff had still not been inoculated.

Downing Street last night confirmed the issue was being looked at as part of a review led by Michael Gove into ‘Covid status certification’, otherwise known as vaccine passports.

Mr Hancock yesterday appeared to indicate that some form of vaccine certificate would be introduced, telling MPs it was ‘clear that we will need to provide people with the ability to certify whether they have had the jab’.

He said ministers would ‘need to absolutely take into consideration those who have a certified clinical reason why they can’t have the jab – which does apply to a relatively small number of people – but it is an important consideration that will be taken forward as part of that work’.

NHS and care staff were given top priority for the jab, with offers rolled out to frontline workers from December.

But a persistent minority have so far refused all offers and encouragement.

The review will have to consider what sanction health workers should face if they refuse to have a compulsory job.

Sackings could be a recipe for industrial unrest, but staff could be moved away from frontline duties or required to use additional PPE.

Analysis by the Health Service Journal found that an average of more than 450 Covid cases a day were probably acquired in hospitals in January.

Hospital infections have also been a major cause of staff sickness – piling pressure on the over-stretched NHS. The situation in care homes is thought to have been at least as acute.

Care UK, which operates 120 homes, said last week that it would take on only staff who have been vaccinated.

A spokesman said: ‘Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.’

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, last month said NHS staff had a ‘professional responsibility’ to have a jab.

NHS England last night said the vast majority of staff were vaccinated – and urged the rest to come forward.

A spokesman added: ‘While it is for Government and parliament to decide which groups of people are required to get the vaccine, the NHS national medical director and chief nurse agree with Chris Whitty, with the chairman of the BMA and other professional leaders that NHS staff have a duty to be vaccinated unless they have a valid clinical reason not to do so.’

Mr Gove’s review is due to be published ahead of the final stage of the lockdown exit roadmap on June 21.

It will examine whether there should be a system enabling people to access services on the basis of their vaccine or Covid test status.

A Government spokesman has acknowledged that any form of scheme would raise significant ‘ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational’ issues.

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