All frontline NHS England workers will have to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by next spring, the Government is expected to announce today.
Whitehall sources claim the deadline will be enough time for unvaccinated staff to get both doses of the jab – although there will be exemptions for medical reasons.
The flu vaccine will not be mandatory for staff, reported BBC News. Some 110,000 of 1.4million healthcare workers in NHS England have not yet had a first Covid vaccine.
The controversial requirement is likely to be enforced in April – and will follow a new rule insisting that all care home workers must be double-jabbed by Thursday.
But experts have pointed to the escalating workforce crisis in social care as evidence for why the Government should hold off making the jabs mandatory for NHS staff.
The upcoming announcement follows a consultation which began in September.
No similar proposals have yet been announced in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for making Covid jabs mandatory for NHS staff or care home workers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as nurse Sandra Guy gives a Covid-19 booster jab to an NHS facilities worker during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland yesterday
It comes after former health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that mandatory jabs for nurses and doctors should be imposed ahead of a ‘difficult winter’.
Mr Hancock, who was responsible for making vaccines mandatory in the care sector, said compulsory vaccination should be ‘in place as fast as possible to save lives’.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he added: ‘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 1850s.’
Former health secretary Matt Hancock (pictured at Downing Street in March) said yesterday that mandatory jabs for nurses and doctors should be imposed ahead of a ‘difficult winter’
However, health chiefs have warned that this would have devastating unintended consequences and lead to an exodus of hospital staff.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a scientist advising the Government, said he was against mandatory vaccination.
He told Times Radio: ‘I think the answer is to try to get as much information out as you can – to really try to talk to people on 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.’
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, Layla Moran MP, added: ‘It would be irresponsible to now implement a policy of mandatory Covid jabs given the unprecedented pressure facing the NHS heading into winter due to a lack of clear government policy.
‘Evidence heard by the APPG on Coronavirus made clear that to now introduce such requirements could further exacerbate staff shortages and risk pushing the NHS over the edge.
‘This policy is a sign that government has given up on tackling the root cause of sluggish uptake, and risks having devastating unintended consequences.’
It comes after Britain’s social care crisis deepened as it emerged that just 3,000 people replied to a major recruitment drive to tackle staff shortages.
Hundreds of care homes say they may have to close and evict residents amid a potential shortage of 170,000 staff.
The problem is being made much worse by the new rule insisting that everyone working in the sector must be double-jabbed by Thursday.
Around 60,000 unvaccinated social care staff in England are losing their jobs this week.
Among them is Louise Akester, 36, seen weeping in an online video after she was fired from Alderson House, an NHS care home in Hull.
Concerned about potential long-term side effects from the vaccine, she said: ‘This choice should be my basic human right. I genuinely love my job with all my heart.’
Even before the rule came in, homes were struggling to recruit enough staff and the sector is teetering on the verge of collapse as staff leave for better-paid jobs in supermarkets, retail or hospitality.
It is feared that as many as 500 care homes may have to close in the coming weeks, leaving thousands of vulnerable people in urgent need of new places.
Last week Health Secretary Sajid Javid launched a drive urging the public to apply for social care jobs.
Louise Akester, 36, seen weeping in an online video after she was fired from Alderson House, an NHS care home in Hull. Concerned about potential long-term side effects from the jab, she said: ‘This choice should be my basic human right. I genuinely love my job with all my heart’
But campaigners say only more sociable hours and better pay will fix such acute shortages. They point to the failure of a similar campaign in February, which new figures show led to only 3,000 applications.
There are 105,000 social care vacancies in England and the National Care Association says this could rise to 170,000 by the end of the year.
Labour’s care spokesman Liz Kendall said: ‘In the face of over 100,000 vacancies, and with only 3,000 people even expressing an interest in working in care after their last campaign, it’s clear that a TV advertising campaign is totally inadequate to the scale of the task.
‘Hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled people and their families deserve better.’