The requirement that NHS staff are double-vaccinated against Covid-19 could mean 73,000 workers leave frontline roles, according to a government impact statement.
Yesterday (9 November) health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that full-time NHS staff in England in patient-facing roles would be expected to have received two jabs, unless they have a medical exemption, by 1 April 2022.
He said delaying the implementation of the requirement until next spring would “allow remaining colleagues [who haven’t been vaccinated] to make a positive choice”.
The decision was made after a consultation on vaccination requirements concluded on 22 October. From Thursday, workers in adult care homes in England will also be subject to the requirement.
The government’s impact statement also found that if the requirement for care workers to be double-jabbed is extended to those who work in people’s homes, this could lead to the loss of around 38,000 employees.
It estimates that around 126,000 people across the NHS, private healthcare and social care will remain unvaccinated, and that 54,000 will decide to be vaccinated as a result of the policy.
It warns that the staffing issues that will arise from having to replace or fill in for unvaccinated staff could disrupt health services.
The government recently pledged £162.5m to the social care sector to support recruitment and retention, but the assessment argues this may not be enough.
It says: “We cannot be confident that the system — even with additional funding — will be able to absorb the loss of capacity resulting from the implementation of this policy, without further intervention.”
The impact statement does list a number of benefits for health sector employers, however.
These include savings from reduced staff sickness and reduced hospitalisation due to the protection offered by the jab. It also argues that the public will have greater confidence in healthcare workers if they have been vaccinated.
Naomi Ward, HR and employment law adviser at Tiger HR, said the requirement could have a direct impact on staff retention. She said: “This is a further example of how Covid has affected the UK workforce adversely.
“In a time where the NHS is already experiencing an immense amount of pressure, staff’s autonomy should be at the forefront to protect employee wellbeing. Further, Acas and the tribunal system are already experiencing a huge backlog of cases due to Covid, and unfortunately it seems as though the backlash of this could cause further bearing here.”