Any reduction of NHS staff due to vaccination requirements would be a “devastating” blow, leading doctors have said as the Government considers mandatory Covid-19 jabs for healthcare staff.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the threat that staff could lose their jobs if they do not get a Covid-19 vaccine is “of grave concern”.
NHS staff have been warned they could face a mandatory requirement to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Monday he is “leaning towards” making the jabs compulsory for staff in England, with around 100,000 NHS workers not fully vaccinated.
Mr Javid insisted he had not yet made a final decision, but the move would mean the situation for NHS staff in England is broadly in line with the requirement for care home workers.
From November 11, anyone working or volunteering in a care home will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless exempt.
The consultation on mandatory vaccines for health workers closed last week and the Department of Health and Social Care has said it is considering feedback.
The BMA said the Government should consider the legal, ethical and practical implications of mandating vaccines.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “The BMA fully supports the Covid vaccination rollout and, given the effectiveness of the vaccine, it’s important that every NHS worker is vaccinated, other than those who can’t for medical reasons.
“There is, however, an important distinction between believing every healthcare worker should be vaccinated and advocating for mandatory vaccinations; this comes with its own legal, ethical and practical implications that must be considered.
“The threat to staff who refuse the vaccine of losing their jobs is also of grave concern.
“One of the BMA’s main concerns is the impact this decision may have on the workforce. Vaccination coverage among NHS workers is high – latest data shows that in several hospital trusts in England the number of staff who have had both vaccinations is in excess of 90%.
“However, even if a small number of staff were forced out of work because they are not vaccinated, this would have a big impact on a health service that’s already under immense pressure.
“With severe workforce shortages afflicting the NHS, and 93,000 unfilled vacancies, any reduction in healthcare workers could be devastating for patient services as we face a record backlog of care and winter pressures.
“The Government should explore options for those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons or may refuse, including, for example, remote working, possible redeployment, greater PPE protection and more regular testing.
“We would like to see the Government produce an impact assessment to give an indication of how much this policy may affect staffing levels.
“It would be irresponsible to move forward with this plan without doing this at the very least, and we would recommend delaying the policy until such time as a more complete understanding of its implications on workforce levels can be reached.”