Mandatory jabs for NHS staff should be delayed amid warning of ‘very, very difficult winter’

Mandating Covid-19 jabs for NHS workers should be delayed until spring to enable the health service to get through the busy winter period, an NHS leader has said.

Ministers have been considering whether or not to introduce mandatory jabs for NHS workers.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week he is “leaning towards” making the jabs compulsory for staff in England, with around 100,000 NHS workers not fully vaccinated.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said that if the Government was to press ahead, it should delay until April to ensure the NHS can get through the “very, very difficult winter”.

Plans for mandatory jabs for staff in care homes in England were announced in June, with November 11 the deadline for workers to have received both doses of vaccine.

Mr Hopson (pictured) cited cases in Cornwall where NHS workers have been drafted in to help the social care sector.

He told BBC Breakfast: “If we lose very large numbers of unvaccinated staff, particularly over the winter period, then that also constitutes a risk to patient safety and quality of care.”

Mr Hopson continued: “We know – and the chief medical officer has said this really clearly – that we’ve got a very, very difficult winter coming up and we know the NHS is going to be absolutely at full stretch.

“So it makes sense to set the deadline once that winter period has passed.

“We know that January, February, often early March is very busy, so that’s why we’re saying today that we think an April 2022 deadline is a sensible time.”

He added: “If we lose very large numbers of staff over the winter period, then our ability to provide care is also compromised.”

Addressing the issue in social care, he added: “In mid June, the Government announced it was going to be moving towards mandating staff vaccination, and the deadline they said was mid-November, so there was a five-month run-up.

“And what we’re saying in the NHS is we need that length of run-up as well.

“You just need to look at the problems that social care providers are currently reporting and saying: ‘look, we are really, really struggling at the moment in terms of staff potentially leaving just at the point when we need them’.

“And indeed some NHS staff are now having to help out, for example in Cornwall, are having to go and help out in the social care sector to ensure that we can discharge people from hospital.”

Two staff groups which appear to have lower take-up rates are women considering having children soon and NHS workers from black communities, he added.

He said that trust leaders have been having “supportive, encouraging” conversations with vaccine-hesitant staff to drive up vaccine take-up, adding: “One of the things we’re saying today is please can we ensure that we don’t have to quick a deadline so that we can carry on that process and, crucially, we can get through winter.”

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