A London hospital could lose 1,000 staff members if they do not get vaccinated, its chief executive has acknowledged after a doctor challenged the Health Secretary about rules on mandatory jabs for NHS workers.
Head of King’s College Hospital (KCH) Dr Clive Kay accepted he was “worried” as around 10% of approximately 14,000 workers at the hospital are yet to receive a first dose.
Dr Kay said his job was to “encourage staff to get vaccinated” after Sajid Javid was questioned by Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist on the ICU ward, during a visit to the hospital.
The consultant had told the Health Secretary he disagreed with the Government’s decision to make vaccinations mandatory for NHS hospital workers, saying the science was not strong enough to support the move.
Dr Kay refused to comment on “individual cases” but said it was a “moot point” whether or not the measures were fair, as they were now matters of law.
Senior staff at KCH are now ramping up efforts to encourage hospital workers to get jabbed as the deadline for them to receive a first dose approaches, he said.
In December, MPs approved mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff by April this year.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, Dr Kay said: “The law is now such that individuals who are not vaccinated, if they can’t be redeployed, will not be able to work in hospitals if they deal with patients.
“We’re having conversations with staff, their line managers are having conversations, we have a helpline where colleagues seek clarification and help.”
More than 1,000 members of staff could be lost in an “extreme” scenario unless vaccine uptake within the workforce improves, Dr Kay said.
Asked whether he was worried, Dr Kay said: “Yes, of course. I think my job is to worry, my job is to worry about everything in relation to whether or not we have enough staff here to provide care for patients and will continue to do so, and we will provide care for patients but ultimately if individuals choose not to (it’s) their choice,” he said.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi also backed the requirement for NHS staff to be vaccinated despite staff shortages and the anaesthetist’s challenge to Mr Javid.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning show: “I think when you work with the most vulnerable people – and those going into hospital are very vulnerable, as are those in our care homes – you have a duty of care.”
After his exchange with Mr Javid’s at KCH, Dr James told the PA news agency that he did not believe Covid was causing “very significant problems” for young people.
He added that his patients in the ICU had been “extremely overweight” with multiple other co-morbidities.
“I wouldn’t say he agreed with me,” he said. “I had the feeling he was listening.”