Sajid Javid hints that controversial ‘no jab, no job’ Covid rule for NHS staff in England is under review
- Sajid Javid suggested plans to force all NHS staff to get Covid jab ‘under review’
- He said unvaccinated employees pose less of a threat as Omicron is less severe
- 77,000 NHS staffers have not yet had vaccine – about 5 per cent of the workforce
The Health Secretary has suggested that controversial plans to force all NHS staff in England to get jabbed are ‘under review’.
Sajid Javid said that because Omicron is less severe, unvaccinated employees pose less of a threat to patients than when the policy was introduced while the Delta variant was dominant last year.
But he insisted yesterday during an appearance before MPs on the Commons health committee that it was still their ‘professional duty’ to get jabbed.
Mr Javid said 77,000 NHS staffers have not yet had the vaccine, about 5 per cent of the workforce, meaning they could be sacked if they are not vaccinated before the April deadline.
But he noted that the risk of getting severely ill with the virus has reduced since the decision to make jabs mandatory was made.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has suggested that controversial plans to force all NHS staff in England to get jabbed are ‘under review’
‘The dominant variant at the time was Delta. The dominant variant now – in fact, almost all cases are Omicron,’ Mr Javid 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.’
There are fears mandatory jabs will exacerbate workforce shortages in the NHS. Hospitals have been told to prepare dismissal proceedings for unvaccinated staff from February 4, the day after workers would need to have a first jab to meet the deadline.
Mr Javid said ‘representations’ had been made to him about Omicron being ‘very different’ to Delta, in that while the former is more transmissible it is ‘intrinsically less severe’.
He said while some people had urged him to add boosters to the mandatory requirement, others have called for it to be scrapped altogether.
NHS workers demonstrated in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, holding signs declaring ‘medical apartheid is wrong’
Mr Javid has previously said universal vaccination is ‘unethical’, but that it should be compulsory in healthcare settings, and stood firm this month on a hospital visit when confronted by an anaesthetist who is refusing to have the jab.
Scotland and Wales are not planning to make jabs mandatory for NHS staff, and the issue is the subject of a public consultation in Northern Ireland.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has suggested that unvaccinated workers from England would be welcome there.
NHS protesters left their scrubs in Trafalgar Square during Saturday’s rally against mandatory vaccines
Mr Javid also told MPs yesterday he will set up a National Vaccination Service to free up GPs as Britain ‘learns to live with Covid’.
Vital health checks for vulnerable and elderly patients have been suspended until April so GPs can deliver boosters.
Mr Javid said: ‘What we can’t have is asking GPs to stop doing their regular work, that can be an emergency response now. In future we’ve got we’ve got to have a National Vaccination Service that is able to deal with Covid vaccines, as well as other vaccines, without drawing in workforce from the rest of the NHS.’
Yesterday 94,326 Covid cases were recorded in the UK, as well as 439 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result.