GP practices should get in touch with staff who quit over the Covid vaccine mandate to discuss reinstating them in their role, NHS England has said.
It comes as the promised consultation on revoking the mandatory vaccine requirement was today launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
In a set of FAQs published yesterday, NHS England said that practices should contact staff who resigned over the mandate ‘as soon as practicable’ to ‘discuss the Government’s plan to consult on revoking the regulations’.
It said: ‘If the individual is still within their notice period, discussions can take place about whether they would like to continue or withdraw their resignation or pause their notice period until the outcome of the consultation and Parliamentary process is confirmed.
‘Managers should follow this with a formal letter to the individual confirming the conversation and agreed next steps.’
However, the document suggested that staff would not be guaranteed to get their job back.
It said: ‘If the individual’s notice period has expired and they wish to return to their former role, the employer may choose to provide the individual with reasonable support with respect to the recruitment and selection process and extend an offer to re-engage them to their former role and on the same terms and conditions of employment.
‘The employer will need to be able to demonstrate consistency in their approach to ensure that a fair and equitable process has been given to all applicable workers.’
Pulse reported last month that GP practice staff were already resigning or looking for other employment ahead of the Covid vaccine mandate coming into force.
The document also advised practices to keep Covid vaccines as a requirement in relevant job adverts and ‘part of their pre-employment health checks’ while ‘the legislation is still in place and subject to consultation and parliamentary approval’.
They should provide advice that this is under review but ‘include wording in their job adverts that they encourage and support vaccination uptake’, it added.
NHS England also said that practices are still ‘encouraged’ to meet with unvaccinated staff to provide ‘encouragement and support for vaccine uptake’.
The health secretary has asked the GMC to ensure its guidance to doctors sends a ‘clear message’ on Covid vaccination, while a letter sent to NHS staff this week said that getting vaccinated against Covid is a ‘professional responsibility’.
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.
Today’s consultation said that although the Government’s ‘intention is to revoke’ the vaccine mandate, ‘the importance of vaccination remains clear’ as they save lives, and it is the ‘professional duty’ of health care workers to be fully jabbed against Covid.
The health secretary wrote to the GMC and other medical regulators, asking them to ensure their guidance sends ‘a clear message’ on Covid vaccination.
The Government is also engaging with NHS England to reassess its policies on hiring new unvaccinated staff and how current staff who are unvaccinated are deployed.
A separate consultation by the DHSC will gather opinions on reviewing the code of practice, ‘with a view to strengthening the obligations providers must satisfy’.
It comes as the CQC was due to inspect whether patient-facing GP staff had had the Covid vaccination.
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’.
Additional reporting by Caitlin Tilley