Care bosses have reacted with fury to No10 plans to ditch the vaccine mandate for NHS staff, two months after the ‘no jab, no job’ policy forced thousands to leave the sector.
A two-jab vaccine mandate was supposed to come into force in England on April 1, which would have given the remaining 80,000 unvaccinated frontline NHS staff until Thursday to get their first dose.
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid is poised to confirm the controversial move is being scrapped later this afternoon.
Care bosses argue the U-turn shows social care was used as a ‘trial run for the NHS’, after a similar vaccine mandate pushed an estimated 40,000 carers out of the sector in November.
It is unclear if the vaccine requirement would also be scrapped for carers, but bosses warned they have lost ‘people with years of experience and skills that we won’t ever get back’.
Kari Gerstheimer, chief executive of charity Access Social Care, said: ‘If mandatory vaccinations are removed for the NHS, it is essential that they are also removed for social care.’
Other care leaders said the reported policy reversal for medics ‘illustrates the huge gap between NHS care and social care and the way they are treated’.
Another said it is ‘disgraceful’ that care homes have spent resources on disciplinary proceedings and redundancies potentially for no reason.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured this morning outside the Cabinet Office) is said to be meeting with ministers on the Covid Operations Cabinet (Covid-O) committee later today to finalise scrapping the controversial move
Nadra Ahmed (pictured left), chairwoman of the National Care Association, said she is pleased for healthcare staff, but ‘frustrated’ and ‘saddened for the care home staff who had lost their jobs needlessly’ owing to the introduction of mandatory vaccination. Mike Padgham (pictured right), chairman of the Independent Care Group, said care homes need to know whether staff who lost their jobs because they were not vaccinated can have them back
But now, ministers are set to scrap the plan after one in 20 NHS staff – the equivalent of 77,591 people – have still not had their first jab. In London, one in ten staff are unvaccinated
Boris Johnson appeared to confirm reports of a change to the NHS jab mandate today during a visit to the Port of Tilbury in Essex
A senior NHS source told the HSJ that a ‘full and complete U-turn’ on the NHS vaccine mandate is expected — but whether the move is being scrapped altogether, delayed, or still applies to the social care sector has not been revealed.
Unjabbed midwife feared losing her job over compulsory Covid vaccines for the NHS
Erika Thompson (pictured), a unjabbed midwife from Hampshire
An unvaccinated midwife feared she could lose her job due to a heart condition that made her nervous about getting the jab.
Erika Thompson, from Hampshire, works at her local NHS unit when they need extra staff.
But from April 1 she would not have been able to return to her post, if Covid jabs become compulsory in the health service.
Ms Thompson has already had Covid and tested positive for antibodies.
But she has decided not to get the jabs because she suffers from heart inflammation, saying she felt it was not worth the risk.
Ms Thompson told the BBC: ‘I don’t want to not be a midwife anymore. I feel like it’s part of who I am.
‘But I also feel strongly that a mandate is not the way forward, and that it’s infringing on our human rights to make these decisions.’
Asked if she felt Covid posed a risk to her, the midwife said: ‘Absolutely, yes
‘I have had Covid and I have got natural immunity, and I think we need to ask the question why are we not considering natural immunity in this equation.’
Heart inflammation — or myocarditis — is a vanishingly rare side effect of the mRNA vaccines, or those made by Pfizer and Moderna.
About three cases per million doses administered are recorded, with the side effect more common among men.
Charities say people with a previous history of heart inflammation should still get the vaccine.
The British Heart Foundation says: ‘There is currently no evidence that people with a history of myocarditis or pericarditis are at increased risk of developing (the conditions again) following the Covid vaccine.
‘If in doubt, ask your helath professional for advice.’
If the ‘no jab, no job’ policy was implemented, those without jabs would have faced dismissal warnings from Friday and been asked to work out their notice periods until March 31.
Scrapping the Covid vaccine mandate for the NHS will only rub salt in the wound for the care sector, where all staff had to be inoculated from November.
Care bosses railed against the move at the time, saying they were already in the middle of a staffing crisis — also with more than 100,000 vacancies — and that it would put vulnerable residents at risk.
They warned mandating jabs could kill vulnerable residents because homes would be left with ‘unsafe’ staffing levels.
But their calls fell on deaf ears among ministers, who instead unveiled a similar policy for the NHS.
Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said she is pleased for healthcare staff, but ‘frustrated’ and ‘saddened for the care home staff who had lost their jobs needlessly’ owing to the introduction of mandatory vaccination.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think we’re really happy for our NHS colleagues if this is what’s going to happen because it’s an unnecessary burden, and persuasion will bring us to the same outcome.
‘The people who we’ve lost, we hope they’ll think about coming back and we will do everything we can to try and encourage them to come back, but they will have found other roles and they may be happier in their other roles now and not want to move again.’
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said care homes need to know whether staff who lost their jobs because they were not vaccinated can have them back.
He said: ‘I think this illustrates the huge gap between NHS care and social care and the way they are treated.
‘We were robbed of thousands of staff back in November when the policy came in for care and nursing home workers and nobody lifted a finger.
‘But when a similar threat is levelled toward NHS staff, the policy is reversed.’
Mark Topps, a director at the National Association of Care & Support Workers (Nacas), welcomed the reports but said it is ‘disgraceful’ that care homes have had to spend time and money on disciplinary proceedings and redundancies potentially for no reason.
He said: ‘We have lost people with years of experience and skills that we won’t ever get back and it is highly unlikely these staff members will want to come back into the social care sector after the way they have been treated by Government.’
A senior Government source told The Telegraph that the U-turn in the NHS was made possible because of Omicron — which is much milder than older variants and makes two jabs significantly weaker at stopping transmission.
The NHS currently has around 100,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nurse and 9,000 doctor positions remaining unfilled.
This is equivalent to about seven per cent of the workforce, and will only get worse should all employees be required to get vaccinated.
Reports are already emerging of NHS staff leaving the health service in England, and signing up again in Scotland and Wales where jabs are not compulsory.
The RCN, Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Midwives previously called on the Government to extend the deadline to prevent a mass exodus in the NHS.
Asked whether she would support scrapping the compulsory vaccination policy entirely, RCN director Patricia Marquis said the union ‘absolutely would’.
She told BBC Radio 4: ‘We’ve been calling for it for some time now saying that mandating these vaccines is not the way to go about getting people to have the vaccination.
‘So, we absolutely would support the scrapping of the regulations.’
She said dumping mandate would come ‘just in time to stop the mass exodus [of staff] that we would have seen had the policy gone forward’.
‘The most important issue for us right now is the fact that there are so many nursing vacancies already,’ Ms Marquis added.
‘It makes no sense to risk losing thousands of registered nurses and health care support workers from both health, and also what’s been lost from social care, which actually puts patients at more risk than not having nurses at all.’