We owe it to our patients to agree that no Covid jab means no NHS job, writes Dr MAX PEMBERTON

Should we force everyone in the NHS to be vaccinated against Covid? Is it right to make people have the jabs or face being fired?

Those are the questions Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is debating and he is leaning towards mandatory vaccination for NHS staff. 

I have one clear message to him – Please, Sajid, I urge you to do this. There should be no discussion or debate.

Investigations by the Daily Mail have shown there is a substantial minority of workers across the NHS who are ‘vaccine hesitant’. About ten per cent of workers are reluctant to get jabs.

That is about 130,000 NHS staff who think they can do their job without having the vaccine. It should be self-evident that actively failing to keep patients as safe as possible is gross misconduct. 

Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid speaks during a press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room earlier this month

If they don’t have the jab, they shouldn’t have a job. I do not say this to impose my rules on others. I’m a libertarian at heart and don’t like telling people what to do. As a doctor, my role is usually advisory. 

I tell patients: ‘Don’t smoke. Keep your alcohol consumption within safe limits.’ These are only recommendations, though.

If you refuse to have a vaccine and risk taking coronavirus into a hospital or GP surgery, that’s different because patients have a right to be kept as safe as possible. 

Not only could unvaccinated staff infect vulnerable patients, they might also pass the disease on to other hospital workers, causing them to take valuable time off work.

Many people argue that if there is a ‘no jab, no job’ edict, large numbers of staff will be lost in overstretched hospitals that already have too few. 

I am afraid it is a risk we have to take – although I believe the predictions of staff meltdowns are exaggerated. We simply cannot afford to let Covid run riot again.

I feel so strongly about this. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the nation is as protected as possible as winter approaches for the simple reason we absolutely cannot have another lockdown. It would create untold misery and mayhem.

A total of 38 coronavirus deaths were registered today which was down around 16 per cent on the fatality toll last Monday

A total of 38 coronavirus deaths were registered today which was down around 16 per cent on the fatality toll last Monday

The Department of Health reported 36,657 new cases in the past 24 hours, down a quarter on the figure last week

The Department of Health reported 36,657 new cases in the past 24 hours, down a quarter on the figure last week

Those of us on the frontline of the NHS continue to see the horrifying effect that lockdowns have had. 

Cancer diagnoses delayed, operations cancelled, chronic conditions left unmonitored and under-treated.

The backlog of untreated cases is terrifying. On top of this are increased rates of child abuse and domestic violence. 

Lockdowns have had detrimental effects on child development and literacy. Lack of family contact has seen those with dementia rapidly deteriorate.

In my own speciality area, we are now seeing increased rates of pretty much every mental health problem, from alcoholism, suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, depression and anxiety through to more complex, unexpected and unexplained conditions.

What is more, I don’t see why anyone even considers compulsory vaccines for NHS staff controversial.

Boris' winter plan to fight Covid

Sajid Javid has promised a 'normal Christmas' this year

There is an escalating row about how the epidemic will unfold in the coming months and whether compulsory face masks, working from home and vaccine passports are necessary (shown left on Boris’ winter plan). Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has promised a ‘normal Christmas’ this year

Not only should we, as health practitioners, be leading by example. But if you want to be a frontline medical worker, you already have to produce documents to show immunity against TB and measles.

Even for medical training, it’s a basic condition. Before they can start college students need to produce a certificate of vaccination against hepatitis B. Without it, they won’t be admitted. 

And why should all NHS staff be vaccinated rather than simply the frontline? Firstly, because those in non-patient-facing jobs still have vital roles to play in the NHS and we need all hands on deck.

Managers, secretaries, laboratory staff, estates and facilities workers – they are all important cogs in the NHS machine. Sickness and absence among admin staff have a dreadful knock-on effect.

If vital letters about patients don’t get sent out, for instance, that might mean treatments get delayed or important information isn’t relayed or test results that could save lives aren’t processed. 

But also there’s the reality that even staff who don’t have direct day-to-day contact with patients still come into occasional contact with them – either passing in the corridor on the way to their office or in the canteen or other communal spaces.

And, of course, they will also come into regular contact with frontline staff who do have to meet patients. 

The NHS is teetering on the edge of being overwhelmed as it is. So to those working in the health service I say: ‘Please get double-jabbed. The NHS needs you to.’

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