The boss of one of London’s busiest hospitals has said he is worried about losing staff when new rules come in requiring them to be vaccinated.
From April, front-line NHS staff in England will need to have the Covid jab – or will be moved to another role.
King’s College Hospital chief Clive Kay said his job was to encourage workers to get jabbed – and 10% of his 14,000 staff were still unvaccinated.
The government’s Nadhim Zahawi defended the policy as “the right thing” to do.
From the start of April, under law NHS staff in England who have direct face-to-face contact with patients will need to have been vaccinated against Covid.
A similar policy has already been brought in for staff working in social care in England – with care homes warning it has worsened the staffing crisis. The NHS is already facing a severe lack of staff and is short of about 93,000 workers.
Mr Kay was speaking after one of his own doctors confronted Health Secretary Sajid Javid about the issue, saying he was “not happy” that he faced dismissal because he had not received the vaccine.
The doctor, Steve James, an ICU consultant, argued that he thought he already had antibodies after contracting Covid – and has since told the BBC that he believes vaccination should be a personal choice.
Mr Kay, the hospital’s CEO, refused to say whether he thought the new rule was fair, but argued that employees were “not being forced” to get the vaccine, but rather “being encouraged.”
When pressed on the rules, he admitted that it might mean people leaving their current jobs: “If they choose not to be vaccinated, they may be redeployed. And if we can’t find a way to redeploy them, the result will be that they will [be unemployed].”
“We will not force individuals to be vaccinated,” Mr Kay said on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme to Sophie Raworth. “We must treat them with kindness and compassion, and we must give them every opportunity to express their concerns if they do not want the vaccine… but it is ultimately their choice.”
When asked how many front-line employees he might lose as a result of the law change, Mr Kay said: “I am confident that a number of employees have already chosen to be vaccinated. I don’t want to make any predictions or provide any numbers at this time.”
However, he stated that he was “of course” concerned about staffing, adding, “My job is to worry about everything in relation to whether or not we have enough staff here to provide safe care for patients.”
- Mandatory jabs: Three reasons for and against
- Why compulsory vaccination is nothing new
- How can I get my booster jab?
In November, Mr Javid stated that more than 93 percent of NHS frontline staff had received their first dose and 90 percent were fully vaccinated. This is higher than the general population, where 90% have received a first dose and 83% have received both.
In an interview with the BBC’s Sophie Raworth on Sunday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi defended mandatory vaccines for NHS staff in England, saying, “We have a duty of care when looking after the most vulnerable to protect ourselves and to protect them.”
“My view is that we should not mandate vaccination,” Dr. James said on the BBC’s Broadcasting House programme on Sunday.
“Normally, you go through this process of informed consent, where you weigh the risks, benefits, and that person’s personal preference as a doctor with the patient.”
Since speaking with Mr Javid, he has received letters from “hundreds of people” who have expressed gratitude that he has spoken out about his feelings.
“A group of midwives has written to me, stating that 41 or 45 of the women in that unit will not be vaccinated. That means the entire midwifery staff at one hospital will be leaving.”
Each of the four UK nations makes its own decisions on the issue.
Scotland and Wales have not made any proposals to make Covid jabs compulsory for NHS workers or care home staff, while in Northern Ireland there is to be a public consultation.
Scotland’s Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, stated that they were not following England’s lead “partly because the uptake from NHS and social care staff is so incredibly high.” “I don’t think mandating vaccines is the way to go,” he said.
It comes after the UK recorded 141,472 new cases and 97 deaths within 28 days of a positive test – though the number of deaths recorded over weekends tends to be lower due to reporting delays.
The total number of cases over the last seven days has increased by 6.6 percent compared to the previous week, while the number of deaths has increased by 30.9 percent.