Thousands of NHS staff in ELL boroughs face dismissal as February 3 vaccination deadline nears

University Hospital Lewisham, Main Entrance Pic: Amarachi Ngwakwe

Over 2,600 NHS staff across Eastlondonlines boroughs risk losing their jobs if they have not received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine within the next week.

In November 2021, the government ruled that all patient-facing NHS staff would need to be double-jabbed by April 1. And staff must receive a first dose by next Thursday, February 3.

In Homerton Hospital, Hackney, about 6 per cent of staff are unvaccinated, according to a statement. The hospital told Eastlondonlines: “We are having ongoing one-to-one discussions with each individual member of staff and listening to their views and concerns.” 

However, when the law comes into effect in April, if staff members are not vaccinated, over 200 Homerton workers of the 4,000 total could lose their jobs.

At Lewisham Hospital, nearly 15 per cent of 2,500 total NHS staff are unvaccinated, according to figures on vaccination rates for hospitals under the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

The mandate is not just for nurses and doctors. Oladele Babatunde, a fully vaccinated security officer at Lewisham Hospital told ELL his entire unit were required to be double-jabbed. “They’ve told us to be vaccinated as well because they think we are vulnerable to the patients, so if we don’t get the vaccination and we’ve got the Covid, it can affect the patient in the ward or in the hospital.”

Oladele Babatunde Pic: Amarachi Ngwakwe

However, Brynne Clendenan, who works in the information governance department at Lewisham Hospital and is triple vaccinated, sympathises for those who might lose their jobs. Clendenan said she understands the reasoning behind the mandate but when talking about an unvaccinated friend who recently graduated from nursing school, she said: “She’s gone to uni, she got the debt, she’s got all this. I just feel bad that this is what it’s come to.”

Daniel Waldron, director of people at Barts Health NHS Trust, told the Evening Standard that about 10 per cent of its 16,000-plus workforce were unvaccinated. The Trust runs Mile End Hospital and The Royal London Hospital, both in Tower Hamlets.

He said managers would continue to encourage uptake before having to implement the rules and would look to encourage staff to take annual leave or switch from front-line duties if more time were needed. However, Waldron hopes the February 3 vaccination deadline will act as a “trigger point” to convince unvaccinated staff to get their first jab.

Nearly 12 per cent of 3,800 total staff at Croydon University Hospital are unvaccinated. At the hospital, a staff nurse, who said she wished to remain anonymous, told ELL: “All staff have been sent an email that they must be fully vaccinated by the second or third.” However, overall “not many staff have refused the vaccination.”

Croydon University Hospital Pic: Amarachi Ngwakwe

The Government will inform trusts how to dismiss staff who have not been vaccinated, which, in London, stands at 14 per cent of 210,000 health care workers compared to 9 per cent throughout England.

At a time when the NHS is under constant pressure due to staff shortages, some organisations are calling the government to reconsider the mandate.

The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives have called for a delay in mandatory vaccination by the government.

In a statement, the Royal College of Nursing said: “We’re concerned about the impact of the new law as high levels of staff absence due to Covid-19 leave services so stretched that patient safety is at risk.”

While the Royal College of Midwives said: “The RCM fears that implementing mandatory vaccinations and the subsequent loss of unvaccinated staff could plunge maternity services and the wider NHS into meltdown.”

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