Wednesday 17 July 2024
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Nottingham

Hundreds of NUH staff remain unvaccinated a week before deadline – but uptake has improved

Hundreds of staff at Nottingham’s main hospitals remain unvaccinated with just a week to go until the mandatory deadline – but the number is falling, hospital directors said.

The compulsory vaccine for NHS staff is a “demanding issue” at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH), which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital, and is already facing significant pressure in other staffing and performance areas.

In an NUH board meeting on January 27, Chief People Officer Neil Pease said 281 members of staff who are unvaccinated had returned a form explaining their reasons for not having the jab.

But only about half of unvaccinated staff had so far returned their forms, he said, suggesting that more than 500 staff in total remain without a jab.

This means uptake has improved significantly since 12 January 12, when trade union Unison reported that around 1,600 members of its 15,000 NUH staff remained unvaccinated.

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In December the government brought in a new rule requiring all patient-facing health and social care workers to be fully vaccinated – meaning they need to have had at least two doses, or face losing their jobs.

Any frontline staff who have had no jabs must get a dose by 3 February to allow for the gap required before the second jab ahead of the 1 April deadline.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that the Government is “reflecting” on its vaccine mandate policy as it faces increasing pressure to scrap the rule.

Neil Pease, Chief People Officer, said during the meeting: “Staff had until close of play yesterday to return a form to us to set out what their intentions are for staff who are unvaccinated.

“From the forms we have had back so far, we have got 71 staff stating they will not have the vaccine. We’ve got 100 who are undecided, we’ve got 23 who are telling us they are medically exempt and we have got 87 who believe their role is out of scope.

“That represents about half of the forms that need to be returned.

“We have got quite a lot of staff coming forward saying their role doesn’t come into contact with patients therefore they are exempt. Each one of those claims is being thoroughly looked through.

“We don’t want to lose one member of staff and we are doing everything within our power to help people and support them.

“This is a massive problem everywhere but given the size of NUH, this has been the most significant undertaking I think I have ever been involved with.”

He added that nearly all doctors are vaccinated at the trust.

Rupert Egginton, Chief Executive, said: “The numbers that Neil has quoted are much lower than we were seeing a few weeks ago, so that is a great relief in that regard.”

He added the issue over mandatory staff vaccinations was “one of the most demanding issues for us at this moment in time for the trust”.

He said: “It is highly impactful legislation and we have a very short timescale for implementation from the time we received the detailed guidance through to the date when the first vaccines need to be administered.

“We have to be respectful that this is a personal choice.

“Our HR team are organisation a heroic amount of work to support this action in the trust.

“We have been running sessions for our staff to support and we have tried to create as much access to expert advice and guidance as we can including needle phobic clinics and specific clinics for BAME communities.”

Michelle Rhodes, Chief Nurse, added that she believes a “handful” of midwives won’t take the offer of a vaccination.

The midwifery unit at NUH, which is rated ‘inadequate’ by the CQC, is currently scrambling to employ more staff to hit recruitment targets.

Ms Rhodes: “Yesterday we had four midwives definitely not taking up the vaccination.

“What we’ve got to be careful about is those people who have genuinely made their mind up and said no, it is not for us to harass and push them.”

Eric Morton, Chair, added: “I can’t remember something like this in the NHS previously that’s had such an impact on staff, staffing and HR departments.”

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