Mandatory Covid jabs for frontline health and social care staff should be abandoned as workforce shortages are “paralysing the sector,” a boss has warned.
Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of The Homecare Association, said “persuasion would likely be more successful than compulsion” and that the Government had “seriously misjudged” the “balance of risk” by forcing workers to be vaccinated.
The association also said it is concerned the safety and wellbeing of older and disabled people will be “dangerously compromised”.
But Downing Street said there were no plans to change the deadline for mandatory Covid jabs.
The new policy affects frontline NHS and wider social care staff working in regulated settings in England.
The deadline for these workers to have their first vaccine doses is February 3, and they must be double jabbed before the policy kicks in on April 1.
Two vaccine doses for care home staff in England have been mandatory as a condition of deployment since November.
Latest figures from NHS England, covering up to January 16, suggest that 13.1% of domiciliary care staff in registered settings (more than 53,000 staff) and 5% of NHS staff (more than 80,000) staff have not had their first dose.
Some 18.9% of domiciliary care staff (77,080 staff) have not been recorded as having received their second dose.
Some of these staff will be exempt.
Dr Townson said: “All along, we have strongly supported vaccination against Covid-19, as there is clear evidence it helps to save lives.
“At the same time, we have consistently argued that persuasion would likely be more successful than compulsion in achieving high vaccine uptake, especially among those with genuine fears.
“And we have repeatedly stressed the need to balance the mitigated risk of infection with the risk of older and disabled people going without vital care at home.
“In pressing ahead with regulations requiring vaccination as a condition of deployment in CQC-regulated wider care settings, including homecare, we believe the Government has seriously misjudged this balance of risk.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It remains the case that we believe that mandatory vaccination is the right approach and there are no plans to change the implementation dates for this policy.
“Health and social care workers look after the most vulnerable people in society who would face serious health consequences if exposed to the virus, and obviously having a vaccination is also a way to ensure fewer staff absences, so a way to further help tackle some of the backlogs we’ve seen caused by staff absences when vaccinations weren’t available.”
He said: “We wouldn’t want to see a single member of NHS staff lost because they weren’t willing to get the vaccination that has been proven to be safe around the world.”
The British Medical Association has called for an “urgent impact assessment” on how the policy will affect staffing numbers.
A spokesman said: “With more than 99,000 vacancies in the NHS in England alone, to lose more than 50,000 further staff who are yet to receive their first vaccine would be disastrous and would have a devastating effect on patient care when the health service is under the most intense pressure it’s been in modern history.
“We urgently need to see an updated impact assessment on how this policy will affect staffing numbers.
“Ministers must not pursue a policy that risks leaving services untenable, and putting patients at risk.”
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.