4:45 AM 10th January 2022
TUC Calls For Government To Delay Introduction Of Mandatory Vaccination Policy To Avert NHS Staffing Crisis
Image: Orzalaga / pIxabay
The TUC is today calling for the government to delay the introduction of mandatory vaccinations for NHS workers in bid to avert a staffing crisis.
NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).
The TUC warns introduction of the mandatory vaccination policy will exacerbate this crisis, creating a bureaucratic and staffing nightmare for NHS Trusts and making it impossible to maintain safe staffing levels in the coming weeks.
And the union body strongly urges everyone who isn’t medically exempt to get vaccinated and boosted, and for ministers to make that as easy for whole NHS staff team.
The union body says ministers must:
Delay with immediate effect mandatory vaccination as a condition of deployment in the NHS.
Prioritise access to lateral flow and PCR tests for more key workers in health and other vital public services. This should reach more than the current proposal for just 100,000 ‘critical workers’ and must include outsourced NHS workers such as porters and cleaners.
Ensure NHS staff health and safety with access to high quality PPE and workplaces that are properly ventilated to minimise transmission and infection.
Recruitment and retention crisis
The TUC says the current staffing crisis existed well before the pandemic, driven by a decade of funding cuts and pay restraint. On the eve of the pandemic in 2019, close to one in ten posts in the NHS were vacant – a rate far higher than comparable healthcare systems elsewhere in Europe.
Unfilled vacancies put huge strain on staff, leading to burnout, absenteeism and turnover. And the cumulative impact of coping with these shortages whilst working on the frontline of the pandemic, has led many key workers in the NHS to breaking point, says the TUC.
A resilient and robust NHS
The TUC is calling on the government to listen to NHS staff and their unions and fix the long-term issues behind the current crisis. The union body says ministers must:
Implement an early and significant pay rise for NHS staff, reversing a decade of lost pay, through fully independent Pay Review Bodies or collective bargaining, without restrictions being set by Treasury pay policy.
Provide a significant increase in investment in the NHS that reverses a decade of cuts and enables employers to recruit for and maintain safe staffing levels.
Implement a fully costed, long-term workforce strategy designed with workers and their representatives that addresses vacancy issues, staff supports retention and that improves services for patients.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis, borne not only from covid absences, but also long-term problems that need long-term solutions. Now is not the right time to introduce more bureaucracy.
“Legislation for this policy has passed but this is precisely the wrong time to implement it. NHS Trusts need to focus their resources on patient care.
“We need to keep patients safe and maintain safe staffing levels. As hospitals declare critical incidents amid a surge in Covid cases, the NHS cannot afford to lose experienced and skilled staff.”