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Staffing issuesNov 5, 2021

NHS Confederation warns that NHS staffing levels could 'take a hit' if vaccinations made compulsory

As the government apparently veers towards demanding that the NHS workforce in England is vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu, the NHS Confederation issued a statement today (5 November) voicing concerns about the potential knock-on effects on staffing levels.

The confederation pointed out that the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on making such vaccinations a condition of deployment for NHS workers has closed, while health secretary Sajid Javid recently stated that he is ‘leaning towards’ making them compulsory.

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With burnout already rife in the NHS, now is not the time to risk worsening staffing levels

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Care home mandate

People who work in or visit care homes will be covered by a similar mandate next week (11 November) – prompting claims that 42,000 care home workers could quit in response. A survey of more than 7,000 care home staff found that three respondents in four believed staffing pressures would increase, the confederation said.

Meanwhile, some health unions, such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, have suggested that any vaccinations should only be conducted on a voluntary basis.  

What the confederation says could happen if vaccinations are made compulsory and staffing levels take a ‘hit’

  • patient care, including tackling the treatment backlog, could suffer
  • further pressure will be heaped on the remaining workforce – many of whom are reported to be ‘close to burnout’
  • at a time when demand is rising, A&E departments, primary settings, mental health and ambulance services will face disruption

We recognise this will be a difficult decision and our members will comply with whatever is decided but the government must publish its risk assessment and set out how it will help mitigate any impact on patient care [Matthew Taylor]

Matthew Taylor, the NHS Confederation’s chief executive, said: ‘Staff across the NHS recognise their duty to make sure they are doing everything they can to protect their patients, colleagues and themselves from avoidable infections.

‘Mandating Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in the NHS could offer a further incentive for the remaining staff who are eligible but have not come forward yet to get jabbed. However, the impact this could have on staffing levels needs to be shared by the government without delay.'

Vacancy levels: a key consideration

Mr Taylor said: ‘There are 93,000 vacancies across the NHS and at a time of increased demand for healthcare services, we simply cannot afford to see staff leave or be removed from frontline care.

‘The secretary of state has made it clear that tackling the treatment backlog is his key priority but if he is not careful, this policy could end up restricting the NHS’s ability to continue to do that effectively. 

'Difficult decision'

Mr Taylor added: ‘We recognise this will be a difficult decision and our members will comply with whatever is decided but the government must publish its risk assessment and set out how it will help mitigate any impact on patient care.'

 

 

 

Author: Ian A McMillan
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