COVID jab to be compulsory for frontline NHS workers in England from April 2022

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May Parsons, the nurse who administered the first coronavirus vaccine in December last year, receives her booster jab at University Hospital Coventry, Warwickshire. Picture date: Friday September 24, 2021.
May Parsons, right, the nurse who administered the first coronavirus vaccine in December last year, receives her booster jab at University Hospital Coventry, in September. (PA)

Mandatory COVID vaccines are to be introduced for frontline NHS and social care workers in England from April 1 next year, the government has said.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself.”

He said he had made the decision after receiving advice from health bosses including the chief executive of the NHS.

The announcement comes ahead of a change in rules that will see two COVID-19 jabs become mandatory for all care home staff, which comes into force from Thursday.

Read more: Care worker's tearful video after being sacked because she refused COVID vaccine

It is estimated that up to 100,000 of the 1.4 million healthcare workers in NHS England have not yet had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

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There will also be exemptions for medical reasons for those who do not wish to have a COVID-19 jab.

As yet, no proposals have been made to make COVID-19 jabs compulsory among health workers or care home staff in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons, Javid said the country was heading into winter in a "much stronger position than last year". 

He added: "Of all the reasons for this progress the greatest is unquestionably our vaccination programme.

“Across the UK the overwhelming majority of us have made the positive choice to accept the offer of vaccines against Covid-19, almost eight in every 10 people over the age of 12 have chosen to be double jabbed and over 10 million people have now received their boosters or third jabs.”

He added: “The latest figures show that 90% of NHS staff have received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, although in some trusts the figure is closer to 80%.”

Watch: Government moving towards compulsory jabs for NHS staff

At the end of last month, it was revealed that 20% of staff at two NHS trusts in England were not fully vaccinated.

At the beginning of this month, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson called on the government to delay introducing mandatory vaccines until April so the NHS can get through the "very, very difficult winter".

On Tuesday, Hopson there are between 80,000 and 100,000 NHS workers in England who are unvaccinated against coronavirus.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that as well as the risk of workers infecting colleagues, patients and visitors, there is also a risk to the health service if large numbers of staff leave as a result of mandatory vaccination.

He said: “We want the government to work very closely with us to maximise the number of people who take up the vaccination voluntarily before we hit the deadline, to think very carefully about the deadline because clearly we’re about to enter what we think is going to be the most difficult winter for the NHS on record.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Tuesday October 19, 2021.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said last month the government was considering compulsory COVID vaccination for NHS staff. (PA)

Hopson said if mandatory vaccination for NHS staff is approached in the right way it could actually result in a rise in take-up of jabs.

But he warned that the NHS and the social care sector losing “significant numbers of staff” would be a “real problem”.

He said: “We are completely reliant on our staff to currently... work extra shifts in order to do the work that needs to be done. 

“Losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressure that both of the systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem. And that’s why we’re very clear with the government they need to help us manage this risk.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has opposed mandatory vaccination for NHS staff.

He said last month: “We've got a crisis coming down the track for the NHS… the last thing we can afford is for thousands of people to be pushed out of their jobs in the NHS.”

Watch: NHS care worker, 36, posts tearful video after losing job because she refused vaccine

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