Tory MPs urge policy U-turn on sacking unvaccinated health and social care staff

Tory MPs have urged ministers to U-turn on their policy of sacking frontline health and social care staff if they refuse to have Covid-19 vaccinations.

Former chief whip Mark Harper (pictured) said it was not too late for the Government to reassess the requirement, amid concerns that more than 100,000 staff will be forced out of the service in England from April.

He told MPs what effectively amounts to “instructions on how to go about firing people” have already been sent out to NHS bosses.

Conservative former minister Sir Desmond Swayne also backed a reassessment of the vaccination strategy given the current knowledge of the Omicron variant.

He said this should address the “policy of sacking NHS staff who aren’t vaccinated given we now know the rationale disappears because it doesn’t stop you catching it and it doesn’t stop you from infecting others”.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) accused health minister Maggie Throup of “complacency” over the potential loss of staff as a result of the “vaccine mandate”.

Care home workers in England already need to be vaccinated.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Tory MP Mr Harper said: “My sources in the NHS tell me that last week they received, either from the department or from NHS England effectively instructions on how to go about firing people from the NHS in April if they haven’t been vaccinated – and this caused them quite considerable concern.

“The Government’s own analysis – so this is prepared by her department and it’s not an analysis of what the position is now, it’s the expectation of where we get to in April – thinks that 73,000 NHS staff will be leaving and 38,000 domiciliary care workers.

“I want people to be vaccinated but we know the protection against infection wanes quite quickly from 10 weeks onwards and that means you’re not protecting others.

“I want to see people vaccinated, I think the best way – and the way public health professionals think is the best way – is to persuade people, not to threaten them with the sack.

“Can I urge her even at this stage before February 3, when if people haven’t had their first jab, they won’t be able to get to April, to come back to this House and reflect on whether threatening people with the sack if they don’t get vaccinated is the right policy?”

Ms Throup replied: “I completely agree with him that persuasion is the right way to go.

“For the care home staff, the uptake went up tremendously and we also know that since we implemented this policy for the NHS that the uptake in NHS staff has increased tremendously as well, which is really encouraging.”

Ms Throup said she wanted it to be a “positive choice” for staff to make to aid patient safety.

Conservative former minister Nusrat Ghani also said: “There is a huge amount of concern about accessing healthcare treatment.

“Can the minister explain to me if a risk assessment has been done if unvaccinated NHS staff – which could be up to 88,000 – leave the NHS, how treatment is going to be made available and how my constituents can access day-to-day cancer care treatment?”

Ms Throup replied: “Already over 93% of the NHS workforce have had their first jab, which I think is incredible and it is the will of this House as of before Christmas that we implement this policy.”

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