HCSA: Compulsory vaccination impact statement cause for concern

HCSA has expressed “deep concern” at a government impact statement suggesting one in 20 NHS England staff could leave next April under plans to impose compulsory Covid-19 vaccination announced today.

Speaking in the Commons, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid announced that from spring all NHS staff in a patient-facing role who are not medically exempt must be vaccinated in order to continue in their role.

He revealed that around 103,000 NHS staff in England were currently unvaccinated.

However, the government’s accompanying impact statement suggested that as many as 4.9 percent of NHS England staff, or 73,000, could be made to leave under the policy and “the impact on workforce levels and health and care services could be significant.”

Urging caution over the plans, HCSA called for the NHS to redouble efforts on hospital infection control and mount a major campaign to persuade health workers to undergo vaccination, but warned that community transmission remained the bigger threat to hospital services.

The Minister was addressing MPs following the conclusion of a recent government consultation on compulsory vaccination.

In its own written submission, HCSA expressed support for the widest possible take-up but urged caution around compulsion in the context of the acute staffing crisis currently gripping the NHS and the necessary focus on the Covid recovery.

The HCSA submission also raised concerns that the drive for vaccination should not be at the expense of other crucial measures to reduce nosocomial infection in our hospitals, such as PPE including FFP3 protection where appropriate and retaining distancing measures and higher levels of cleaning.

Responding to the plans, HCSA General Secretary Dr Paul Donaldson said: “We know even among HCSA members there are a variety of views from supporters of compulsory vaccination to those opposed to this approach on principle.

“We have stated our support for the widest possible vaccination against Covid-19 both in the NHS and society as a whole, but expressed concerns shared by many Royal Colleges and medical organisations about the consequences of compulsion for the NHS.

“The government’s own impact statement gives cause for deep concern. It acknowledges that the estimated loss of as many as 73,000 NHS staff, or 4.9 percent of the workforce, could cause significant damage to the delivery of care.

“The Secretary of State’s announcement creates a window which will allow a process of persuasion for those remaining staff who are still unvaccinated but also to monitor the real impact on the social care workforce as the deadline expires this week.

“Should a significant impact be seen on staffing in the care sector, which would in itself have a knock-on effect on hospitals already struggling to discharge patients, then plans for the NHS must be reassessed.

“By far the biggest Covid-19 impact on hospitals is community transmission, and so we continue to urge everyone to ensure they are vaccinated, wear facemasks in contained spaces, and limit contact with others.

“We also urge the government and NHS leaders to see sense and provide FFP3 masks for staff in high-risk health environments to reduce aerosol transmission, maintain higher level cleaning regimes, and ensure patients in our hospitals are sufficiently distanced to reduce nosocomial infection.”