Firing unvaccinated NHS staff set to hamper efforts to cut down waiting lists

Firing a large number of unvaccinated NHS staff could hamper efforts to tackle long waiting lists and catch up with postponed surgery.

Walsall Manor Hospital
Walsall Manor Hospital

Health service bosses said they are doing all they can to encourage workers in Walsall and beyond to receive the Covid vaccine ahead of the Government's March 31 deadline.

New legislation means staff are required to have had two jabs or face being dismissed.

Members of Walsall Council’s health and wellbeing heard how the true impact on hospitals, mental health services and GP practices won’t be apparent until the deadline has passed.

Board chairman Councillor Stephen Craddock said: “There are a couple of issues coming along, one of them is making sure your staff are vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I know there is some resistance amongst the workforce towards that.

“What are you going to do if, on the appropriate date, you’re going to have to sack a load of staff? How is that going to impact on the recovery going forward for elective surgery and reducing waiting lists?”

David Loughton, interim chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I haven’t got an answer to that. I don’t know what the staffing position will be come March 31.

“I think it is a very difficult problem. I think we’ll probably get more people in the NHS coming forward to be vaccinated but nowhere near the number that would make a massive difference.

“The general public are behaving in a way the NHS staff are not. But I’ve got to leave it right until the end. We’ve done everything we can in terms of encouraging people to have vaccinations.

“I’ve done all I can with national television, talking to people in intensive care who were not vaccinated to say ‘please, please do it, this is my experience’.

“Everyone is arguing at the moment it is a low number being affected but if you’re one of the five people fighting for your life in intensive care in Walsall, maybe you might have thought about being vaccinated.”

Marcia Foster, interim director of the Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – which provides mental health and specialist learning difficulties services across the region – said they were in a similar position.

She said: “We are very much hoping in the next few weeks that hope triumphs over experience and we see a reduction in the numbers who are unvaccinated.

“Certainly for mental health and learning disability services, it’s not quite the same issue in terms of recovery from elective work but there are certainly waiting list issues we need to urgently address.

“Given we are yet to see the final circumstances, I am concerned it is going to impact on service delivery. But we’re not able to take that final view yet.”

And Geraint Griffiths-Dale, managing director of Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group added: “I think we’re seeing a great deal of vaccine hesitancy in the admin and reception staff within primary care.

“We’ve seen most of our GPs vaccinated but if we were to lose around 10 per cent of our admin staff that would have quite a big impact on quite small organisations and they way they function.

“So I think there is a logistical challenge we will need to overcome.”

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