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NHS staff should be forced to have the jab BEFORE winter says former Health Secretary Matt Hancock

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Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said all NHS staff should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter hits

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said all NHS staff should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter hits

NHS workers should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter, disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today.

Mr Hancock — who quit in June after breaching his own social distancing rules by kissing a married colleague — said the move would act as another ‘tool to save lives’ during what is projected to be a harsh winter for the health service.

He also scorned NHS staff who are still not vaccinated and don’t have a valid medical reason, warning that it was their ‘moral duty’ and that they had  ‘ignored all the scientific and clinical advice’.

Ministers have for weeks been considering whether to make Covid jabs compulsory within the health service after pushing through the requirement for care home workers in the summer. 

But last week the Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to push back the plans until April after being warned by  NHS bosses that introducing the policy now could leave hospitals understaffed at a crucial period.

There are also concerns about whether the move is even necessary, given that more than nine in 10 NHS staff are already vaccinated.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock, who was Health Secretary for three years, warned ministers against delaying compulsory vaccinations for the sector into the new year.

He said: ‘Having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS — and get it in place as fast as possible…So as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives. 

‘Imagine the cancer patient, already battling another deadly disease, being cared for by a nurse. Who can put their hand on their heart and say they’d be happy to tell that patient their nurse could have the vaccine, but has chosen against all scientific and clinical advice to ignore it.’ Mr Hancock said doctors and nurses had a ‘moral duty’ to get the Covid vaccine to protect their patients.

A SAGE adviser said today it was a ‘general standard of hygiene’ for anyone in a frontline role in contact with vulnerable patients to be double-vaccinated against Covid. But they stopped short of calling for jabs to be made compulsory, saying this should only be done as a ‘last resort’. 

All care home workers will be required to have had two doses of the Covid vaccine from Thursday or lose their jobs, under a policy brought in while Mr Hancock was Health Secretary. 

Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)

Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)

The above map shows the 20 hospital trusts with the lowest proportion of staff fully jabbed in England. The data is up to September 30, the latest available

The above map shows the 20 hospital trusts with the lowest proportion of staff fully jabbed in England. The data is up to September 30, the latest available

Health chiefs warned yesterday that hospitals are already at ‘peak winter’ levels of bed occupancy. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘To me the logic is crystal clear. Medicine is founded on science — and the science of the Covid vaccines is comprehensively proven. Mandating the use of the best science isn’t controversial — it’s common sense.

‘There are some people who say this isn’t the way we do things in Britain. But we already mandate vaccination against Hepatitis B for doctors. The British historic precedents for compulsory vaccination go back to the 1950s.’

Covid vaccination is ‘general standard of hygiene’ for doctors and nurses, says SAGE adviser

A SAGE adviser has said doctors and nurses should get two doses of the Covid vaccine as a ‘general standard of hygiene’.

Professor Peter Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) that feeds into SAGE, today called for all NHS staff to get the vaccine.

But he stopped short of saying jabs should be compulsory, saying the measure must instead only be used as a ‘last resort’. 

He told Times radio: ‘I’ve always been against making vaccines mandatory.

‘But I think the answer is to try to get as much information as you can — to really try to talk to people onm their own terms about why they might be uncertain about whether they should be vaccinated and only absolutely as a last resort should you make it a condition of employment.

‘But I do think that people should not be working in frontline jobs in contact with vulnerable patients unless they’ve been vaccinated.

‘And I’m sorry to say about that — but it’s like washing your hands — it’s a general standard of hygiene.

‘You don’t do things in the workplace that endanger those that you’re caring for and being vaccinated makes other people safe, it makes you safe.’

NHS England figures suggest nine in ten doctors and nurses are already full-vaccinated against Covid. 

To show the success of the policy he pointed to France, where since it became a requirement the proportion of healthcare workers double-jabbed has surged from two-thirds to 99 per cent.

In Britain, health sources say making Covid vaccines compulsory for care home workers only had a ‘slight’ effect on uptake. 

Figures showed some 60,000 staff in homes were yet to get double-jabbed at the end of October, although some of these may have been exempt for medical reasons compared to around 90,000 before it was a legal requirement. 

SAGE adviser Professor Peter Openshaw today said doctors and nurses should get the Covid vaccine as a ‘general standard of hygiene’.

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) member told Times Radio: ‘I do think that people should not be working in frontline jobs in contact with vulnerable patients unless they’ve been vaccinated.

‘And I’m sorry to say about that — but it’s like washing your hands — it’s a general standard of hygiene.

‘You don’t do things in the workplace that endanger those that you’re caring for and being vaccinated makes other people safe, it makes you safe.’ 

Professor Openshaw stopped short of calling for vaccines to be made compulsory for healthcare workers, however.

He said: ‘I’ve always been against making vaccines mandatory.

‘But I think the answer is to try to get as much information as you can — to really try to talk to people onm their own terms about why they might be uncertain about whether they should be vaccinated and only absolutely as a last resort should you make it a condition of employment.’

There are some 1.45million people working for the NHS, while the health service also has about 100,000 vacancies.

Ministers are yet to announce whether health workers will be required to get two doses of the Covid vaccine, although it appeared last week that health chiefs had managed to get the deadline pushed back to April.

Sources said that Mr Javid was ‘genuinely split’ on the issue following a consultation, which was concluded in late October. Another consultation on the plans for England could be announced as soon as tomorrow. 

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, warned yesterday that if the ‘no jab, no job’ policy is brought in ‘we risk a significant loss of a significant number of staff.’

He added that many hospitals were already at occupancy levels that would not be expected until late winter, suggesting the health service is under significant strain.

He said: ‘Look at bed occupancy, which is a very good measure of how busy a hospital is — we’re seeing bed occupancy levels, it’s sort of 94, 95, 96 per cent.’ He added: ‘At this point, before we’re into peak winter. We’ve not seen that before. That’s unprecedented.’ 

It comes as hundreds of care homes face closure this week, with all their staff set to be required to be double-jabbed from Thursday.

As many as 500 providers may have to shut their doors due to having unsafe staffing levels as unvaccinated workers quit or lose their jobs, it is feared.

This would leave thousands of vulnerable residents needing a new care home place, with the sector already under huge strain.

The above map shows the five areas where more than one in five care home employees are still yet to get two doses of the Covid vaccine

The above map shows the five areas where more than one in five care home employees are still yet to get two doses of the Covid vaccine

The above graph shows the proportion of staff working in care homes for the over-65s who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine. It reveals that there was no sharp surge in uptake when the jabs were made compulsory

The above graph shows the proportion of staff working in care homes for the over-65s who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine. It reveals that there was no sharp surge in uptake when the jabs were made compulsory

The Government estimates 40,000 staff will be lost from care homes after this Thursday’s deadline for them to be double-jabbed.

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, who has worked in the sector for 30 years, said: ‘The deadline for care staff to be double-vaccinated could see up to 500 homes across England having to close their doors because they don’t have enough staff to operate safely.

‘If that happens, it begs the question of where thousands of residents would go, as they can’t go to hospitals and they can’t go to their own homes without care.’

Professor Martin Green, head of Care England, which represents care homes, claimed yesterday that ministers like to test out controversial policies on social care and treat the service ‘like the child they are irritated with’, while the NHS is ‘the favoured child’.

A survey of care workers by the union Unison found 97 per cent already say their homes have staff shortages, and around one in three say staffing levels are ‘dangerously low’ and getting worse.

One of the 746 staff surveyed said: ‘The dying aren’t dying with dignity as there’s not enough staff to sit with them in their final hours.’ Another said: ‘Staff morale is very low.

‘Everyone is tired and fed up. Care is awful – no time for nail care, proper washing, or having a chat with the residents.’

Mr Padgham, whose Independent Care Group represents providers in York and North Yorkshire, said: ‘The Government has delayed the deadline for mandatory vaccination in the NHS because the winter is going to be tough, but it will be tough for us too.’

He explained: ‘The services are interconnected, and if there aren’t care homes open, people can’t be discharged from hospital, so the system clogs up and everything gets worse.’ 



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