Unvaccinated NHS staff could be spared the sack as compulsory jabs plan ‘under review’

·3-min read
Ministers have said the plans for mandatory vaccines are 'under review' as they 'reflect' on the latest evidence - Jeff J Mitchell/AFP via Getty Images
Ministers have said the plans for mandatory vaccines are 'under review' as they 'reflect' on the latest evidence - Jeff J Mitchell/AFP via Getty Images

Mandatory coronavirus jabs for NHS staff could be put on hold, with new data being released on Thursday expected to show vaccine uptake is now above 95 per cent.

Frontline health workers have been warned they could face dismissal this spring if they do not get their first jab by the end of next week.

But ministers have said the plans are “under review” as they “reflect” on the latest evidence.

The new figures are expected to show that more than 95 per cent of NHS staff in England have now had their first jab, ahead of next week’s deadline.

This amounts to about 77,000 staff, including those who do not work directly patients.

When plans for the rule were first revealed by The Telegraph last May, about 155,000 NHS workers had yet to have their first jab.

NHS guidance to employers says all frontline staff who have not been vaccinated should start being called into formal meetings from February 4 and warned that they face dismissal.

This process is currently continuing, with no instructions issued to the NHS about any delay to the timetable.

But on Wednesday, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, told MPs that the policy was now "under review", given the “the very different” and “less severe” nature of the omicron variant.

Watch: NHS staff leave their scrubs at Downing Street in protest against mandatory COVID vaccines

Mr Javid said while some people had urged him to add boosters to the mandatory requirement, others have called for it to be scrapped altogether.

He said: "I think it is right in light of omicron that we reflect on all this and keep all Covid policies properly sort of under review, because omicron is different to delta.

“Equally, we don't know what the next variant is going to be … But we are reflecting on all this."

Ministers are expected to consider Thursday’s data, the last due to be published before the February 4 deadline, as they prepare to take a decision on the timetable ahead.

First jabs are required by the deadline in order to allow time for a second dose by the start of April, when the rules apply.

Compulsory jabs were introduced for care workers, but uptake was significantly lower - at 91.1 per cent - eight weeks before vaccines became mandatory last November.

On Wednesday, Mr Javid said efforts to boost jab uptake in recent weeks meant that as few as 25 out of 5,000 staff at some trusts had given a “firm refusal”. Several trusts boasted uptake rates as high as 98 per cent.

In recent weeks, NHS trusts have redoubled efforts to persuade reluctant staff to be vaccinated, with workers who have refused jabs being called into meetings with their managers.

The Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of GPs are among those calling for a delay, while a number of MPs are calling for compulsory jabs to be axed.

Watch: Sajid Javid: It is professional duty of every NHS worker to get vaccine

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