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Health secretary asks GMC to emphasise importance of Covid vaccination

Health secretary asks GMC to emphasise importance of Covid vaccination

Health secretary Sajid Javid has asked the GMC to ensure its guidance to doctors sends a ‘clear message’ on Covid vaccination. 

It comes as Mr Javid last week announced that GPs and their patient-facing staff will no longer be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by 1 April.

His statement came just days before the 3 February deadline for unvaccinated staff to get their first Covid vaccine in time.

The Times reported Mr Javid sent a letter to nine medical regulators, including the GMC, after his U-turn on the mandate.

The letter said his decision to reverse mandatory jabs ‘in no way diminishes the importance that health and care workers are vaccinated’.

‘Indeed, it is the responsibility of all healthcare professionals to take steps to ensure the safety of patients,’ Mr Javid wrote.

‘As the approach to ensuring vaccine uptake among health and care staff changes it is important that this personal professional responsibility is re-emphasised.’

He said he was ‘concerned that the guidance from the professional regulators on this issue is currently limited to a statement about vaccination in general’ instead of relating to Covid specifically.

He added that the GMC should ‘urgently’ work with senior health officials in order ‘to ensure yourself that your current guidance on vaccination, and particularly vaccination for Covid, sends a clear message to registrants’.

A GMC spokesperson told Pulse on background that it has received and is considering Mr Javid’s letter.

In response to the letter, GMC medical director Professor Colin Melville said: ‘We strongly support maximising vaccine uptake among healthcare workers. Our guidance for doctors is clear that they should be immunised against serious communicable diseases unless there is a good reason not to be. We strongly encourage those who haven’t yet taken up the full course of vaccination to do so.’

The GMC’s code of practice currently states doctors ‘should be immunised against common serious communicable diseases unless doing so is contraindicated’.

It said with Covid, the risk to GPs and patients ‘weighs in favour of doctors being vaccinated’.

However, it recognises ‘vaccination is not possible in all cases’ and that unvaccinated should ‘take appropriate steps to reduce risks’.

It said: ‘In our guidance Good medical practice (2013), we say that doctors should be immunised against common serious communicable diseases unless doing so is contraindicated.

‘In our view, the potential risk to a doctors’ own health as well as the risk of inadvertently spreading Covid-19 to vulnerable patients weighs in favour of doctors being vaccinated. And reducing the number of staff who are sick or in self-isolation due to Covid-19 infection has a positive impact on workforce capacity to respond to patient need and wider health service demands. 

‘However we recognise that vaccination is not possible in all cases. If you are not vaccinated, you need to be confident that there are measures in place where you work to manage any risk to patients and colleagues. You will need to take appropriate steps to reduce risks and prioritise patient safety.’

It comes as a letter to NHS staff sent on Monday 7 February reaffirmed that getting vaccinated against Covid is a ‘professional responsibility’.

Signatories included NHS medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

The letter said: ‘Your dedication and that of all of the NHS and wider healthcare system to providing the best possible care to patients in the challenging circumstances of the last two years has been remarkable, and a testament to you and your commitment to the health of those in your care. Thank you. 

‘One aspect of that is the professional responsibility to reduce the risk of infection to others as far as possible. Getting vaccinated against diseases which can be passed person-to-person in healthcare settings is part of that responsibility.’

The letter argued that ‘questions of professional responsibility and legal mandation are separate’, and said that the professional duty is ‘widely agreed by professional bodies, Colleges, regulators and others’.

The health secretary told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee at the end of January that while it is the ‘professional duty of every NHS worker to get vaccinated’, ‘no one wants anyone, not one person, to leave the NHS’ because of the mandate.

There had been fears that up to 3,000 GP staff would have had to be dismissed, as NHS England guidance said redeployment into non-patient facing roles was ‘not guaranteed’.

And, while 58% of GPs responding to Pulse’s snapshot survey regarding the vaccine mandate in the last week had said they support mandated vaccines, many also expressed workforce concerns.

Out of 286 GP partners who responded, 102 knew of unvaccinated staff within their practice – and of those, more than two thirds (71%) said they would be unable to redeploy the unvaccinated employees.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David jenkins 9 February, 2022 12:28 pm

as i understand it, vaccination does NOT stop you catching (and therefore spreading) covid. it simply stops you getting very sick and/or dying.

this is all about keeping people with covid out of hospital, and avoiding depleting the workforce while those with covid are off for longer. it is political, and not to do with staff infecting patients.

having said that, i firmly believe that you should get your jab.

if you don’t have your smear, and you DON’T get ca cervix, then great – you got away with it.

but if you don’t have your smear, and you DO get ca cervix……………….,

Patrufini Duffy 9 February, 2022 2:52 pm

Irrelevant. Noise. Corrupt.