GP practices should have ‘one-to-one’ conversations with staff who have refused Covid jabs to identify ‘reasons for vaccine hesitancy’, NHS England has said.
Local commissioners have been asked to ‘support primary care organisations, particularly where uptake is lower’.
It follows the Government’s announcement that Covid-19 vaccination will be a ‘condition of deployment’ for all staff in the health sector from April next year.
The mandate extends to all non-clinical workers in direct contact with patients, meaning GPs will be banned from deploying unvaccinated public-facing staff.
In a letter sent to CCG and ICS leads earlier this month, NHS England said it is working with NHS Employers, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and ‘wider stakeholders’ to create ‘detailed implementation guidance’.
The guidance will be distributed ‘in due course’ and will ‘give clarity and confirm specifically’ which individuals are included in the mandatory vaccination policy.
In the meantime, it asked ‘local commissioners and systems to support primary care organisations, particularly where uptake is lower’.
The letter said: ‘We ask organisations to ask line managers to have supportive one-to-one conversations with unvaccinated staff members to identify reasons for vaccine hesitancy and provide information that will support them to make an informed decision about the vaccine.’
One-to-one conversations have been ‘the most effective way’ to allow colleagues to make an informed choice, ‘often leading to vaccination uptake’, it added.
It said: ‘We will work with you to minimise service disruption and ensure patient care and safety continues to be our core priority.
‘Please encourage individuals who have not yet been vaccinated to use the resources available and discuss with their own GP or trusted healthcare professional if they wish to have a further conversation or have any questions around vaccination.’
NHS England said it is ‘engaging with clinical, BAME networks and faith leaders’ through ‘advisory groups’ and has made ‘videos with experts around fertility and pregnancy’ to reassure staff the Covid vaccine is safe and important.
Other actions recommended by the letter include:
- Simple and convenient ways to get the vaccine, making the most of ‘walk-ins, pop-ups and other delivery models’
- Targeting communities where uptake is lowest, including healthcare workers in BAME and faith networks
- Communication campaigns and proactive engagement with individuals by senior leaders and clinicians
- One-to-one ‘follow up’ with unvaccinated staff to offer ‘structured support’ and access to clinical advice
It comes as the DHSC has suggested the NHS could lose 73,000 staff as a result of the Covid-19 vaccination mandate.
In an impact statement released this month, it estimated that 73,000 workers in the NHS and 15,000 in the independent health sector will not have received both Covid jabs by April 2022 and may leave the sector.
The document said that ‘the impact on workforce levels and health and care services could be significant’, although it is ‘uncertain how many and when workers may choose to leave their jobs rather than have a vaccination’.
It said: ‘Any reduction in the numbers of health and social care staff may lead to reduced or delayed services.
‘This is likely to be more acute in clinical staff groups where there are existing staff shortages and lags in labour supply caused by education and training requirements, but all services are likely to be impacted.’
It added: ‘The policy is likely to have a greater impact in domiciliary care and other care settings where uptake rates are lower compared to healthcare settings.’
When asked by Pulse how many general practice staff are expected to be included in the 73,000 figure, the DHSC said it is ‘not able to give a further breakdown of the figures in the Impact Assessment at this time’.
It comes as health secretary Sajid Javid has again admitted that the Government will fail to fulfil its election pledge to recruit 6,000 additional full-time equivalent GPs by 2025, saying it will ‘wait and see’ where it gets to by then.
And Health Education England (HEE) last week announced that it has met an ambitious target of recruiting 4,000 new GP trainees this year, the largest number in any year to date.
It follows NHS England suggesting the GP access fund could be used to bring in retired secondary care doctors, including geriatricians, to help boost appointment numbers.
But in Northern Ireland, the health minister has announced that a public consultation will be launched on making the jabs compulsory for ‘new recruits’.
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