Covid: Almost 10% of Harrogate hospital staff not fully vaccinated as government considers mandatory rules

Around 350 frontline staff at Harrogate hospital have not been fully vaccinated against Covid, it has been revealed, as a consultation on whether to make the jabs mandatory gets underway.

By Jacob Webster
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 12:23 pm
Harrogate District Hospital.
Harrogate District Hospital.

That figure represents under 10% of the 3,598 frontline staff at the hospital and was revealed by Dr Jacqueline Andrews, executive medical director at the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

She said the trust was urging all remaining staff to get doubled jabbed and that managers were speaking with those workers about their concerns.

Dr Andrews said: "It is vitally important that we all continue to do everything we can to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission in hospital and in the community.

"We have encouraged and supported all our staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid to keep themselves, their families, fellow colleagues and patients safe and improve our organisational resilience over what is likely to be a challenging winter."

Government plans are already in place to make it a legal requirement for all care home workers to be fully vaccinated, while the same rules for frontline NHS staff are currently being considered in a consultation.

Across North Yorkshire, around 430 care home workers are not fully vaccinated and health officials have insisted they are making progress on reducing this number.

The date from which it will become a legal requirement for all care home staff in England to be double jabbed, unless medically exempt, is 11 November.

The move has sparked concerns that making the jabs mandatory could lead to thousands of job losses which would only worsen the current staffing shortages in both sectors.

And there are now new warnings that employers could face legal action if they sack staff because they have not been fully vaccinated.

Ben Kirkham, regional organiser for the GMB union, said mandatory vaccines could open the door to claims of unfair dismissal if employers sack staff without offering them redeployment into roles where vaccines are not required.

He said: "GMB is opposed to a mandatory requirement for NHS staff - or any other employees - to be vaccinated.

"If the government takes this course and an employer thinks that this gives them the green light to dismiss our members then they need to think again.

"Dismissing any employee because they have not been vaccinated still gives rise to the potential for a claim for unfair dismissal. That employer would still be obliged to look for alternative work for the employee to undertake

"At one stage we were clapping on a Thursday to show our thanks for the work the NHS and social care staff did during the pandemic, now the government hopes we will get behind insisting they be vaccinated so they can continue to be employed - that simply cannot be right."

The consultation on mandatory vaccines for NHS staff is seeking views on the proposals and any impact on staffing and safety such as reducing staff sickness absence.

Staff, healthcare providers, patients and their families are all being urged to have their say, with a final decision expected this winter.

Launching the consultation last week, health secretary Sajid Javid said: "Many patients being treated in hospitals and other clinical settings are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19, and we must do what we can to protect them.

"We will consider the responses to the consultation carefully but, whatever happens, I urge the small minority of NHS staff who have not yet been jabbed to consider getting vaccinated – for their own health as well as those around them."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter