Government Will Confirm In "The Next Few Days" If Mandatory Jabs For NHS Staff Will Be Dropped
Government will decide whether to reverse its controversial policy on mandatory Covid vaccines for NHS staff in England “in the course of the next few days”.
On Monday morning, treasury minister Simon Clarke confirmed that ministers are continuing to monitor the way the virus has mutated and “the impact of wider policy”.
“The NHS is a well-staffed service,” Clarke told Sky News.
“It’s got 45,000 more full time staff than it had a year ago – 1.2 million in total.
“We always want to make sure that those numbers stay as robust as they can possibly be and that we can provide the best possible care.”
Under current rules, frontline NHS staff in England must be fully vaccinated by 1 April this year. Those who have not yet received a single dose will need to do so this week in order to be fully vaccinated by April.
Those who refuse the jab, as things stand, risk being redeployed or dismissed from their role.
Around 77,000 NHS England workers remain unvaccinated, and concerns have been raised that their mass dismissal could plunge the health service into a staffing crisis.
“We have to balance [staffing concerns] against the reality that if you are not vaccinated then you do pose more of a threat to both your colleagues, yourself and your patients,” Clarke said.
“That is the stark reality of a highly transmissible, very dangerous virus,” he added.
“That is why we have taken the measures that we have.”
MPs from across the Commons have spoken against mandatory vaccines from an ethical perspective, with the likes of Steve Baker, Mark Harper and Rachel Maskell arguing it singles out and unfairly impinges on the civil liberties of health and care workers.
In December last year, 63 Tories and 22 Labour MPs rebelled against voted in the Commons against compulsory jabs.
At a health and social care committee hearing last week, Sajid Javid said that mandatory jab requirements are being “kept under review”.
The health secretary stated that government’s decision to impose the policy was made while Delta was the dominant variant, however the advent of Omicron has given cause for a re-think.
“When it comes to Omicron and the fact that the virus has mutated, we continue to monitor the impact of wider policy,” Clarke told Sky News.
“What we know about Omicron is that it is much more transmissible but less severe. Any decision that’s taken this week will reflect that reality.
“There will be a decision made in the course of the next few days and that opens the window for us to look at this.”
Responding to initial reports on the potential policy U-turn first reported by The Telegraph on Sunday night, Harper wrote on social media: “A huge win. My backbench colleagues and I have been pushing hard to spare the sack for tens of thousands of NHS and care workers.
“It beggars belief that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary kept insisting on bulldozing this policy through, despite warnings of staff shortages, for so long.”
Tory MP Esther McVey echoed Harper’s sentiment, tweeting: “If this is true it is very good news and not before time.
“It shouldn’t have been proposed in the first place – but I’m glad government has listened and are putting it right.”
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