Get Covid jabs or lose job at hospital
Unvaccinated staff at Whittington are warned they could be axed
Friday, 7th January — By Tom Foot
HUNDREDS of unvaccinated staff at the Whittington have been told to get a Covid jab or face losing their job.
Around one in five at the Archway hospital are yet to have their first injection, despite more than a year of education and efforts to tackle hesitancy. Those who have not been protected will not be able to go to work from April 1 when being double vaccinated is written into their NHS employment contracts.
The possible loss of staff due to the mandatory vaccination programme – which is opposed by all health unions and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn – is a serious headache for the hospital’s managers, who are already struggling to cope with the rampant Omicron variant of coronavirus. While it is considered a milder strain, staff are still falling sick or needing to isolate to protect others.
The health service was already at breaking point going into the pandemic after “years of bad policy decisions” made by the Government, one nurse told the Tribune this week.
Millie Simms, who covers hospitals including the Whittington and is a representative for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Even before the pandemic hit, London’s nursing workforce was in crisis.
“Years of bad policy decisions by the government on NHS workforce planning, below-inflation pay rises for nursing staff and the impact of nursing through Covid-19 has left nursing on its knees.”
She added: “Government can no longer rely on the goodwill of nursing staff to pick up the slack and they must wake up to the reality. A proper pay rise for nursing staff, support to access affordable housing and legal responsibility at ministerial level for nurse staffing levels are needed if the government really wants to provide safe and effective care for patients.”
At the Whittington, there are around 1,000 fewer nursing posts funded now than in 2015, while vacancy rates are at around 10 per cent. A range of problems were created by successive pay freezes, nursing home sell-offs, Brexit and the removal of a bursary for those wanting to retrain in the profession.
The Brexit fallout led hospitals to launch employment drives outside Europe last year in India, the Caribbean and the Philippines.
The problems with staffing were behind Mr Corbyn voting against the mandatory vaccine in the Commons last November. Keir Starmer supported the government and asked Labour MPs to back the programme.
The Royal College of Nursing has informed members that management must have made an attempt to explore individual reasons with them for not getting vaccinated, adding: “Where possible, employers should consider redeploying staff to lower risk areas.
“However, it is acknowledged that for many providers this may not be feasible or practical. Where staff continue to refuse vaccination, they are likely to face dismissal.”
Unison union chiefs told the Tribune this week that redeployment in major hospitals was extremely “unlikely” as there were not enough positions outside the main hospital for staff to take on.
A spokesperson for the Whittington Health NHS Trust said: “We are working hard to ensure that all of our staff are fully vaccinated ahead of the government’s deadline and are providing support to staff and managers to enable everyone to feel confident to get vaccinated.
“We are awaiting further national guidance around the implementation of the legislation, but if any staff are not fully vaccinated by the deadline, we would hope to safely redeploy them into other roles within the Trust which do not involve direct patient contact, where possible.”