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LMCs say GP staff resigning ahead of Covid vaccine mandate

practice nurses

GP practice staff are resigning or looking for other employment ahead of the Covid vaccine mandate coming into force in England, according to LMCs.

It comes amid reports that the Government is considering delaying the requirement, but the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) indicated to Pulse that there are no plans to change the policy.

Londonwide LMCs said it is ‘already hearing’ that local practice staff are ‘resigning’ over the requirement, which is due to come into force from 1 April.

An update to practices earlier this month said: ‘We are already hearing reports of staff members resigning in view of these proposed regulatory changes. 

‘There is no need for this to occur at present. Should the regulations change as proposed and staff members refuse to be vaccinated and are not exempt there will be ample time for them to formally resign from their position.’

It added that the LMCs’ understanding is that once the legal requirement comes into force, employers will need to consider options for the redeployment of unvaccinated employees that are not clinically exempt.

However, ‘if such a post cannot be found the worker will in effect be resigning from their position’, it said.

London practices are already struggling with workforce shortages, with an LMC workforce survey in December revealing that ‘almost two-thirds’ have a vacancy for ‘one or more’ members of staff.

Elsewhere in the country, Walsall LMC has also been informed it is ‘already happening’ that local practice staff are ‘moving from the NHS to other services’ where vaccination is not a requirement.

LMC medical secretary Dr Uzma Ahmad told Pulse: ‘I am hearing that the staff that are not willing to be vaccinated are looking for jobs outside the NHS. I have been made aware of a couple but of course we have to watch in the next few weeks or so if anything changes.’

Dr Ahmad added: ‘For a very small team, one or two staff leaving for that reason is going to be very challenging [and] dismantle the whole team – especially if Covid is going on as well and there are other absences that go on with the winter pressures. 

‘It’s really going to be very challenging in the next couple of months.’

The Government has estimated that England’s Covid vaccine mandate could mean 3,000 GP staff have to be removed from patient-facing roles.

When asked whether it was considering delaying, relaxing or scrapping the requirement – as was reported over the weekend – a DHSC spokesperson said its position has not changed.

They told Pulse on background that there are no plans to change the policy’s implementation dates.

In a statement, they added: ‘Health and social care workers look after the most vulnerable people in society, who could face serious health consequences if exposed to the virus.

‘Ensuring staff are vaccinated is the right thing to do to protect patients and those in care. The vast majority of NHS staff have had the vaccine which is our best defence against Covid-19.’

A minister also reiterated to MPs yesterday that the Government ‘remains committed to bringing these measures in on 1 April’ for the NHS.

Parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Paul Scully made the comments in a debate on mandatory vaccination. This was triggered by a petition against employers being allowed to mandate Covid vaccination, signed by 220,000 people.

Meanwhile, the RCGP has said it supports calls for the requirement to be postponed.

In a statement published over the weekend, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘The College has always been opposed to mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations as a term of employment. 

‘Our view is that informed and educated choice about health interventions would be more beneficial long-term than mandation, which risks leading to resentment and mistrust.’

The RCGP is concerned about the ‘significant workforce implications at a time when general practice and the wider NHS is experiencing enormous workforce and workload pressures’, he added.

‘We simply can’t afford to lose highly-trained staff in general practice when we need as many as possible delivering patient care’, he said.

Professor Marshall added: ‘A delay to the vaccination deadline that has been set would allow more time to address concerns and hesitancies that unvaccinated people working in the NHS may have about getting vaccinated and encourage them to think otherwise. 

‘It also creates a window of opportunity to have a national conversation about whether mandating Covid-19 vaccinations is necessary.’

Meanwhile, RCGP president Professor Dame Clare Gerada defended the stance against criticism on Twitter, saying there are ‘risks as well as benefits and leaders have to explain both’.

The BMA has warned that enforcing mandatory Covid vaccinations will be an ‘added burden’ for GP practices amid ongoing workforce shortages.

It is developing a set of FAQs that will ‘address redeployment, termination and implications for practices’, due to be published this week.

Up to 3,000 GP staff may have to be dismissed from April, as NHS England guidance said redeployment into non-patient-facing roles is ‘not guaranteed’.

NHS England has advised GPs to ‘seek their own legal advice’ on redeploying and dismissing unvaccinated staff.

It has also encouraged GPs to have ‘one-to-one’ conversations with staff who have refused Covid jabs to identify ‘reasons for vaccine hesitancy’.

About the vaccine mandate

Thursday 6 January was the start of the 12-week grace period to ensure unvaccinated individuals get their first dose by 3 February and can receive their second dose by the 1 April 2022 deadline.

Currently, two Covid jabs are considered ‘fully vaccinated’ for the mandate, but NHS England has said this is due to include the requirement of a booster jab in the future.

The mandate extends to all non-clinical workers in direct contact with patients, meaning GPs will be banned from deploying unvaccinated public-facing staff.

It will be for the CQC to ensure compliance and in the worst-case scenarios, they could withdraw registration for practices with unvaccinated staff – effectively shutting them down.

Some GP leaders have expressed concern that the mandate may hit the GP practice workforce.

There are ‘no plans’ for Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce a Covid or flu vaccine mandate for healthcare staff.

For England, flu vaccination mandates have not been ruled out for future winters.

Northern Ireland is planning a public consultation on making Covid vaccination compulsory for ‘new recruits’, but there is still no date for the consultation.

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Patrufini Duffy 25 January, 2022 5:18 pm

Like I said – not seeing a compulsory influenza or pneumococcal vaccine. Even your leaders haven’t got a soul it seems. Autonomy and consent have become a dirty words.

Mark Cathcart 25 January, 2022 10:20 pm

Sorry folks but this is the critical moment in history: either we accept this law or stand up and fight it!
For me this would be a red line that I could not surrender, compulsory vaccination is an anathema to the concept of patient consent and autonomy and if this mandate stands then I would call on all NHS workers to stand up for their colleagues who defy the compulsion to get jabbed
If this goes ahead as planned it is game over for the nhs as we know it
This is serious now and is a pivotal point in history

Cathy Greig 25 January, 2022 11:01 pm

I really don’t get it
Being vaccinated neither protects others, as transmission is now equil for Omicron, nor does it prevent the disease.
The CDC themselves have the data freely available to show natural immunity is not only robust but superior.
We are also now aware of the de-sensitising effects of multiple vaccinations with waning benefit along with an increasing understanding of short term side effects. We still do not know long term side effects.
This remains an experimental drug under emergency approval, therefore by right, you should volunteer to be a part of this trial and should not be coerced, bribed or rewarded for partaking.
The vaccine only protects vulnerable individuals, not the other way around.
All the evidence is there, so why now, as we reach mass herd immunity with a weakened virus do the government feel this vaccine should be mandatory to health care workers who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic.
This does not make scientific sense.
Why is there no recognition for robust and long lasting natural immunity.
No consideration that this remains an experimental vaccine with side effects.
It should be targeted to at risk groups on a risk benefit analysis.
An analogy to Hepatitis vaccine, just shows a complete lack of understanding to the difference of the virus and the vaccines used and is not compatible.
I am double vaccinated, I have had Colver twice and I have sustained cardiac complications from my 2nd vaccine. This should not be forced upon our dedicated staff. There should be full disclosure of all risk benefits known to date To allow individual staff to do their own risk benefit analysis. This truly has nothing to do with protecting patients and other staff members it is purely being used to manipulate the mandate and people’s consciousness to Comply. I never normally comment on social media but feel so compassionate and frustrated with the decision to make vaccination mandatory for all healthcare workers.

David Banner 26 January, 2022 1:26 pm

Re Cathy Greig,

Well said! The argument for compulsory vaccination has evaporated with Omicron. Given the recent overdue outbreak of Common Sense at higher levels I expect this controversial can will be kicked down the road then quietly shelved, assuming future variants are (as expected) similarly attenuated.

Karen Potterton 26 January, 2022 1:46 pm

If I wasn’t vaccinated I’d have resigned as this law was passed. Get ahead of the game and not end up competing with everyone who’ll be sacked on 1st April. As it is I’m vaccinated but may still have to sack a colleague who like me has worked her tits off the the NHS for more than 2 decades but has decided not to be vaccinated. I don’t want to work for a government that treats highly trained and dedicated professionals like a herd of cows. As soon as my pension is sorted I’m off.

Hello My name is 27 January, 2022 2:46 pm

I agree with the above comments. What on earth are they thinking? These vaccines are for emergency use, and of course patients (including NHS staff) should retain the autonomy to decide what enters their bodies. The thin edge of a very thick wedge. We should all speak out against this move.

Dave Haddock 28 January, 2022 10:08 am

Suspect the “protect patients” argument is subservient to reducing sickness absence; likewise influenza vaccination.