Today, Sajid Javid confirmed that the controversial Covid mandate was to be dropped for NHS staff and health care workers.
The Health Secretary said he believes the requirement is ‘no longer proportionate’ as he confirmed the widely rumoured move in the Commons tonight.
But the ‘no jab, no job policy’ will only be ditched pending a consultation, meaning thousands of unvaccinated carers will still be banned from taking up old jobs for now.
The impact of the new vaccine on the unvaccinated NHS workers is not known. They would have to be vaccinated by February 3.
Javid explained that while vaccination continues to be our most effective line of defense against Covid’s attacks, Mr Javid believes it no longer makes sense for a statute to mandate vaccination.
Mr Javid said the U-turn was motivated by protection against Covid among the public — both through vaccination and infection — coupled with Omicron being ‘intrinsically less severe’ meant the policy should come to an end.
He said that the mandate for vaccines was the right policy at the moment, and supported clinically by evidence. The Government does not apologize.
The Royal College of Nursing hailed the rumoured news of the decision to scrap the policy as ‘just in time’, with the jobs of around one in 20 frontline NHS employees hanging in the balance.
Care bosses claimed that the U-turn was an insult to the tens of thousand of staff at care homes who were fired because of a similar mandate for vaccines. It came into effect last November.
Friday’s dismissal notices for those who did not have jabs will be sent to all and they are asked to extend their notice until March 31, 2019.
Patricia Marquis was the RCN director and claimed that the policy had been made “No sense” and could actually have ‘put patients at higher risk’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The vaccination is the right policy but forcing vaccination wasn’t, not in the middle of a staffing crisis particularly.’
Nadra Ahmed (chair of the National Care Association) said that she was frustrated and saddened for the care workers who had been ‘needlessly lost’ their jobs.
Boris Johnson confirmed the news of the change in the NHS jab mandate during his visit to Port of Tilbury, Essex.
According to him, ‘I believe that Sajid Javid (the Health Secretary) is speaking a little more about how they might handle different coronavirus variants because each one has different consequences when it comes down to transmission.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary (pictured outside the Cabinet Office this morning), will be meeting later today with members of the Covid Operations Cabinet committee (Covid-O), to discuss scrapping controversial move.
But now, ministers are set to scrap the plan after one in 20 NHS staff – the equivalent of 77,591 people – have still not had their first jab. One in ten London staff is unvaccinated
Boris Johnson confirmed reports of an update to the NHS jab mandate during his visit to Port of Tilbury, Essex.
Patricia Marquis (pictured) was the director of the RCN. She claimed that the policy had no logic and may have put patients at greater risk.
Tonight, Javid addressed the House of Commons, stating that the government could lift the policy due to increased protection for Covid in the general public and Omicron being more severe than Delta.
He added: “In considering the risks and potentials of this policy again, there are two new elements.
The first reason is that Covid is no longer a threat to the health of our entire population.
According to the Office for National Statistics one-in-15 people were diagnosed with Covid in the most recent peak. Nearly a quarter (25%) of all people living in England had tested positive for at least one Covid test, said Mr Javid.
He stated that 84% are double-jabbed over 12, while 64% have been raised, which includes more than 90% of over-50s.
Javid explained that Omicron the dominant variant is more severe.
When Omicron is added to the other factors, such as greater population protection, it shows that Omicron presents approximately half the risk for hospital admissions or emergency care visits than Delta.
“Given these drastic changes, it is both right and responsible to review the balance between risks and opportunities that governed our original decision last January.”
RCN, Royal College of GPs, and Royal College of Midwives had previously asked the Government for a longer deadline in order to stop a mass exodus from the NHS.
But asked whether she would support scrapping the compulsory vaccination policy entirely, Ms Marquis said the RCN ‘absolutely would’.
BBC Radio 4 spoke out, saying: “We have been calling for this for quite some time. We feel that mandating vaccines is not the best way to get people to receive the vaccination.”
“So, we would absolutely support the repeal of regulations.”
She stated that the dumping mandate would be issued “just in time” to stop mass exodus [of staff]That we would have seen if the policy had gone ahead’.
Ms Marquis stated, “The most important thing for us right now it the fact that so many nursing jobs are available already.”
“It is absurd to put at risk the loss of thousands of registered nurses, health care support staff, from both health and social care. This puts patients at greater risk than if they don’t have nurses.
There are currently around 100,000 NHS vacancies. This includes 40,000 nurses and 9,000 doctors positions that remain unfilled.
The equivalent of seven percent in the workforce. It will get worse if all employees have to get vaccinated.
Already, reports are emerging that NHS employees are leaving England to sign up in Scotland or Wales.
Ms Marquis stated that if nothing is done, the majority of unvaccinated employees will be given redundancy notices by this week.
She explained that vaccination was the correct policy. However, it wasn’t mandatory vaccination. Not in the midst of an urgent staffing situation.
According to her, scrapping the mandate would mean that’many, very many nurses set to lose work in the coming months will be able stay at their job and deliver as safe as possible patient care, due to the shortage of staff’.
Ms Marquis advised all NHS employees to be vaccinated as Covid remains a serious disease. However, they said that it was not necessary for them to do so.
“We think that Covid is still an extremely serious disease, and we would strongly urge any nursing staff to have their vaccines,” she stated.
“But Omicron has improved in that it is now serious for people who have not been vaccinated. However, overall the country’s situation has improved.
The NHS’s repeal of the Covid mandate will not only make matters worse for care workers, who had to have been inoculated starting in November.
Care bosses railed against the move at the time, saying they were already in the middle of a staffing crisis — also with more than 100,000 vacancies — and that it would put vulnerable residents at risk.
However, ministers did not hear their appeals. Instead they presented a policy similar to that for the NHS.
According to estimates, around 40,000. employees have lost their jobs in this industry because they weren’t vaccinated.
The policy could be reversed, but it’s not known how many will return. There are some who have been working in Scotland and Wales without jabs.
Ms. Ahmed expressed sadness for those who lost their jobs because they were told that the compulsory jabs policy would be lifted.
BBC Breakfast reported that she felt the sector’s impact was ‘devastating’, and had left social work ‘on its knees.
“We hope that the people whom we lost will think of coming back, and we will try our best to encourage them.
“But, they will have other roles. They may feel happier now in those roles than they do later.
However, she said that they are’really pleased’ that the policy can be scrapped prior to it entering into effect in the NHS.
Mark Topps is the director of National Association of Care and Support Workers. He said that it was shameful that care homes have been made to pay money and time for redundancies and disciplinary procedures, potentially without reason.
He stated that they had lost many people who have years of experience and skilled, and that it was highly unlikely that these workers will ever want to return to the social services sector.
Mike Padgham (chair of Independent Care Group) said the possible U-turn highlighted the gap between care sector and NHS.
He stated that he was robbed by thousands of workers back in November, when the policy for nursing home and care staff came into effect. Nobody lifted a finger.
“But when an identical threat is made against NHS staff, it is reversed.
“It’s another of many slaps on the face for social services, and should be treated with the same respect that NHS care.”
According to reports, the Prime Minister confirmed that there was a possibility of the NHS mandate being dropped.
He stated that the vaccine should be available to everyone during a visit in a Port of Tilbury (Essex) factory.
However, he added that the Health Minister would most likely announce the mandate later in the day.
Simon Clarke, chief secretary of the Treasury, also didn’t rule out a U-turn in a series of interviews with media this morning.
Asked about the move on BBC Breakfast, he said: ‘Again, that would be for the Health Secretary to determine — I wouldn’t pre-empt any announcement that he might make.
It was again decided, just like with the NHS Frontline, that all people working with older people should be immunized.
‘There were good reasons for that — there are good reasons why you would want people who are dealing with very vulnerable people to have got protection for both themselves and those they are looking after.
“Whether Omicron is a shift from Delta to Omicron will allow for change in policy in that area would, as you say, be for the health ministers.
After voting for the change, the MPs approved mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS workers in December.
Since then, however, reams have been presented that Omicron might be far milder in comparison to older varieties.
Telegraph – A top government source said that Omicron, which is far less dangerous than Omicron, has caused ministers to reconsider the compulsory jabs policy.
According to the source, “Omicron has made things better.” When we introduced the policy it was delta which was dominant. It was extremely high in severity and risk.
The study has shown that omicron is not more transmittable than the other types. The conversation has changed about mandatory jabs being proportionate.
Chris Hopson (chief executive at NHS Providers) stated: “There were always two risk factors to consider here. The first was the possibility of Covid cross infection in healthcare settings. Second, there are the potential consequences for losing staff if significant amounts of people choose to not be vaccinated.
The reported U-turn came after NHS managers were told they could shift unvaccinated nurses from the frontline into positions that don’t involve patient contact.
Staff would be able to find work elsewhere, and the bosses wouldn’t need to provide redundancy payment for those that are fired.
CQC is the Health Watchdog of Care Quality Commission. It has declared that it will not pursue hospitals who feel it is more safe to retain unvaccinated employees.
Javid last week stated that the policy was currently under review. He did not wish to see any workers go.
It may be scrapped, he suggested. Omicron is less severe than Delta and means that unjabbed workers pose less threat to patients.
Amanda Pritchard (Nursing Home Services chief executive) told a Thursday board meeting that mandatory jabs posed “a real element in risk” to the NHS.
While she stated that universal uptake is an objective that should be pursued, she added that there was also a danger that the local teams face and that there could be a threat to our national targets, including expanding the nursing workforce.