From 1 April, all NHS staff who are judged to be in scope of a new law will be required to have received the Covid-19 vaccine (doses 1 and 2). I spoke at our public Board meeting earlier this week about our ongoing efforts to encourage our workforce to have the vaccine.
At present, out of 7,538 staff, 1,165 are recorded as having not yet been vaccinated, which is about 15.4 per cent. I have written to all of them outlining the implications of the legislation and pointing out that this is not a decision that sits within the control of the Trust or the NHS.
We believe a significant portion of the 1,165 may have had their vaccination elsewhere or may be medically exempt and we’re working hard to update our records. We’re also hopeful that many colleagues will decide to have their first vaccine in the next few weeks. Based on our understanding of current government guidance, it is likely that many of those who choose not to be vaccinated will no longer be able to work in the NHS, or in any CQC-regulated healthcare provider in England. We will start writing to affected staff next month, setting out the terms on which they will work out their notice period.
I stressed at the Board that it’s important we treat each other with respect, and not allow this issue to become a source of conflict. This is a debate which brings in factors that are complicated, personal and nuanced. Colleagues have a range of reasons for their views about this vaccine, including a concern that making it mandatory removes informed consent. We need to respond to each other with compassion and not become entrenched. We are making time to give individuals the chance to speak to someone they feel comfortable talking to. We’re also holding weekly sessions to understand people’s worries so that we can try to address them.
I want our staff to be vaccinated. I will be profoundly sad to see people leave the NHS, an institution they’ve often devoted their lives to, because they won’t have a vaccine that has been taken by millions of people, has saved millions of lives, and for which the side effects are rare.
Given the tight timetable imposed by the government to get all the relevant staff vaccinated, areas of risk for the Trust are geriatric services, our Emergency Departments (ED), clinical support services and women and child health. It will be something I will be highlighting during my regular meeting with our MPs.
Like other NHS maternity departments, we have been facing staff shortages of around 10 per cent among our midwives. Our records show that around 70 of our current 300 midwives have not had the Covid-19 vaccination, which will be mandatory from 1 April. We’re working very hard to improve uptake. If a significant number of our midwives remain unvaccinated, then our Birth Centre may have to be closed so that we can concentrate on the labour ward and responding to complex births.
Matthew Trainer, Chief Executive