Yesterday, the government announced it will launch a consultation on ending the requirement that all NHS England staff need to be double vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of April.
Mick Whitley, the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, called on the Government to reverse its plans to introduce mandatory vaccination for frontline NHS staff. Mick warned that hundreds of “healthcare heroes” across the Wirral could face the sack.
Under current proposals, all frontline NHS staff must be fully vaccinated by 1 April, giving them until this Thursday (3 February) to have their first vaccine.
Unvaccinated workers who cannot be redeployed after that time will be dismissed.
Mick Whitley resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Shadow Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband in December to vote against the introduction of a vaccine mandate in the NHS.
Speaking at a Westminster Hall Debate last week, the MP for Birkenhead stressed that the vaccine was the “most powerful weapon that we have in the long fight against Covid” and praised the work of Dr Mantgani and the Birkenhead Vaccination Team based in Birkenhead Medical Centre.
But while he urged all his constituents to get vaccinated, he said, “I could not in good conscience condemn so many of our healthcare heroes to the dole queue.”
It is estimated that approximately 390 NHS staff in Wirral had not had their first vaccine by the end of December 2021. Nationally around 77,000 have had no jab at all.
The Labour MP also echoed the concerns of trade unions about the potential impact of a vaccine mandate on an already “acute” staffing crisis in the NHS. The Royal College of Midwives has warned that the policy is likely to have a “catastrophic impact” on maternity services, with the Royal College of GPs and Trade Union Congress (TUC) calling for a delay in the implementation of the policy.
The MP for Birkenhead said that all patients had a right to “feel safe in their hospitals and care homes” and that “every effort must be made to [. . .] convince those who care for them to get a jab”. But he warned that making vaccination a condition of employment for NHS staff would only “strengthen the convictions of the vaccine-hesitant” and that “compassion, engagement, and understanding” was needed instead of coercion.
He also warned of the impact of staffing shortages on patient safety. They had already caused problems in the Care Sector with mandatory vaccination already in place in that sector since November. Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said the policy had had a “devastating impact.”
Unite the Union have outlined a range of safety measures as a workable and effective alternative to a compulsory jab and Mick Whitley criticised the Government for failing to engage with the trade unions to implement such proposals.
Mick is pushing for a U-turn and it is understood that Ministers will be meeting later today to decide whether mandatory vaccinations should be scrapped.