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Covid Vaccination Mandatory for All NHS Frontline Workers in England—What Will This Mean for Your Practice?

It was announced by the Health Secretary yesterday that all NHS frontline workers in England will need to have the Covid Vaccination by 1st April 2022. Samantha, our HR Specialist, looks at what this could mean for practices.

This is currently only applicable to England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making their own decision, although none have made vaccines compulsory for care workers. The Health Secretary also ruled out making the flu vaccine mandatory.

There are currently thought to be around 100,000 NHS workers who have decided not to have the vaccination and although there is an exemption for those that cannot have the vaccination on medical grounds, those that refuse the vaccine will likely be out of a job. In care homes, 40,000 staff hadn’t been vaccinated when the decision was announced to make vaccination mandatory and 32,000 still remained unvaccinated at the end of October, less than two weeks before the deadline of November 10th. So does that mean the NHS is likely to see around 100,000 NHS staff soon to be leaving?

This is beyond concerning when the NHS is already so understaffed and under pressure moving into winter. Over 92% of doctors have had the jab already and with such high take up, many professional bodies are pushing back to ask why this is necessary. It is believed that the Health Secretary was asked to ensure that this won’t come in to force until next year, to allow the NHS to get through the winter, however five months is not long enough to recruit and train the amount of frontline workers that the NHS would be likely to lose.

We are also expecting some negotiation from the likes of the BMA over the next few months, so we will watch this space with interest and expect a few small changes as time progresses.

What will this mean for your practice?

First of all, we need to see who exactly is likely to be impacted by this decision. It has been confirmed that this will include all employees who have “face to face contact with patients” but it is not yet clear exactly who this will be. For example, will this include receptionists, practice managers, dispensing assistants or just clinicians? Similarly to the Care industry, it is likely that the employees who refuse to have the vaccine without having a medical exemption, will need to be dismissed from the practice’s employment.

It is expected that practices will have to enter a period of consultation, where employees who have not been double vaccinated are identified. Those identified will then have to meet with the practice management, discuss their plans and options, such as whether there is the option for them to be redeployed to a position that is not patient facing.

If redeployment is not an option and they do not want to have the vaccine, then dismissal is likely to be the only option. The dismissal is not likely to be high risk as the government will essentially be making it illegal for the practice to employ unvaccinated staff past the April deadline, but employers should still follow a fair process.

If employees refuse to inform you about their vaccination status

A complication of the above procedure could be that employees do not engage with the practice and refuse to provide information on their vaccination status.

From the 11th November in care homes, one person is the “Registered Person” who is responsible for ensuring the vaccination status for all employees and contractors. This person is usually registered with the CQC as the service provider or care home manager. This person is legally responsible for making the checks and keeping records of them. For that reason, if an employee chooses to not engage with the practice and refuse to give their vaccination status, they are likely to need to face disciplinary action.

Employees prove their vaccination status by either showing their NHS Covid pass on their app, NHS app online or by NHS Covid pass letter.

If an employee does have a medical exemption, this should not be recorded to comply with UK data protection law.

It has been confirmed in the documents recently published on gov.uk that the CQC will be inspecting employees’ vaccination status, similarly to how they do in care homes.

We are expecting more information in the coming days, and here at FPM, we will try to keep you updated.

If you are an FPM member and have concerns about your employees, you can contact our HR Specialist at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk

 


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