The Scottish and Welsh Governments have said they currently have ‘no plans’ to introduce mandatory Covid and flu vaccinations for healthcare staff.
However, the Northern Ireland health minister has announced that a public consultation will be launched on making the jabs compulsory for ‘new recruits’.
A Scottish Government spokesperson told Pulse: ‘There are no plans to introduce mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff in Scotland.
‘Uptake rates are incredibly high amongst NHS and social care staff in Scotland and we are grateful for their efforts during the pandemic.’
And a Welsh Government spokesperson said it also does ‘not see the need for compulsory measures’ amid ‘high’ take-up of the Covid vaccine among health and social care staff in the country.
They said: ‘More than 95% of health care workers in Wales have had both doses of the vaccine, and more than two-thirds have already received their booster jab.
‘While Covid vaccination rates are at such high levels in these groups, we do not see the need for compulsory measures. We will continue to work closely with our health and social care sectors and professional bodies to promote uptake of the vaccine.’
But in Northern Ireland, health minister Robin Swann yesterday announced plans for a public consultation on mandatory Covid and flu jabs for ‘new recruits to the health and social care workforce’.
He said that ‘introducing such a measure would be a significant development that should only be undertaken after careful consideration’ and that there is ‘no predetermined outcome’.
He added: ‘I remain convinced that persuasion is the best and most effective option when it comes to vaccination.’
‘There are compelling arguments that mandatory vaccination for existing health and social care staff in Northern Ireland could be counter-productive – potentially destabilising an already fragile workforce.’
But he said that he also has ‘great sympathy for those who only want their loved ones to be cared for by fully vaccinated staff’.
Mr Swann added: ‘All options remain under consideration. I will closely monitor the situation in England – including the impact of mandatory vaccination on staffing in its social care sector.’
Meanwhile, the RCGP yesterday said that it ‘opposes’ mandatory Covid vaccination for NHS workers and that the Government’s decision to ‘ignore’ the views of the college and other healthcare bodies is ‘disappointing and sets a concerning precedent’.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘The move to mandatory vaccination is particularly concerning at a time when we need as many people as possible working in general practice and across the health and care sectors delivering essential patient care and services.
‘We can ill afford to risk losing staff with personal objections to the vaccine, however unfounded those objections may be, and we are unlikely to be in a better position with workforce pressures come next April.’
The college would ‘strongly urge’ all healthcare staff to be vaccinated ‘unless there is a medical reason why they shouldn’t’, Professor Marshall added.
And the BMA yesterday said the delay in making the Covid jab mandatory for NHS staff in England until spring 2022 is ‘sensible’ ahead of upcoming winter pressures.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘While the BMA has serious concerns about making vaccination mandatory, we’re pleased that the Government has, as we recommended, decided to delay the policy of mandatory vaccination for Covid-19 until spring next year, and released both its workforce impact assessment and its equality impact assessment.
‘Given the current staffing crisis in the NHS and the possible implications of trying to introduce such measures in the midst of winter pressures, waiting until April is sensible, but it’s equally important that the Government is aware of the consequences this policy could have even after the delay – and that clear steps are taken to mitigate this risk.’
He urged employers to ‘explore all possible options rather than lose staff completely’, such as moving staff to non-patient facing roles.