The RCN has called on Health Secretary Sajid Javid to delay the implementation of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for NHS staff in England, as the service faces major staff shortages.
The RCN supports the use of vaccines against COVID-19, with its members at the forefront of the vaccine rollout and the vast majority of health and social care staff double vaccinated. However, they are concerned about the impact of the new law as high levels of staff absence due to COVID-19 leave services so stretched that patient safety is at risk.
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‘Nothing matters more to a nurse than caring for their patients safely. Right now, our members are telling me they can’t always do that,’ said Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive.
“We’re calling on the government to recognise this risk and delay a move which, by its own calculations, looks set to backfire. To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.
The calls come after health trust leaders raised the alarm about staff shortages. One London hospital chief executive told the BBC that 10% of the 14,000 employees were still unvaccinated. From April, frontline NHS staff in England will need to have had the COVID-19 vaccination or be redeployed from their patient-facing roles unless they’re exempt. Those that cannot be redeployed are expected to lose their jobs.
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‘Encouraging people to get vaccinated is the best way to boost vaccine take-up,’ added Ms Cullen.
‘Nursing staff, who are well-placed to understand people’s concerns and are highly trusted by them, have led the COVID-19 vaccination programme and have a key role to play in addressing any concerns people may have about being vaccinated.’