Mandatory Covid-19 vaccines could drive out tens of thousands of NHS staff leading to pressure on services, the government has admitted.
A government analysis has predicted 73,000 NHS workers, and 35,000 care workers, will not have had their Covid-19 jab by the time mandatory vaccines come into force on 1 April next year.
It has warned, “any reduction in the numbers of health and social care staff may lead to reduced or delayed services. The health system is currently stretched with an elective waiting list of 5.72 million and high levels of vacancies.”
“If a proportion of staff decides to leave the NHS, this would put pressure on NHS services.”
Official estimates show it may cost the NHS £185 million to replace the healthcare workers lost as a result of the policy, while replacing care workers could cost £86 million.
All NHS staff will be required to have two jabs, under the new rules, but booster jabs will not initially be mandatory. Only staff who do not have face to face contact or have a medical reason are exempt. As of 4 November, 89 per cent of NHS staff had both doses of the Covid vaccine.
The news comes ahead of the government’s deadline, on Thursday, when Covid-19 jabs will become a mandatory requirement for care home workers. Those in the sector have previously warned care homes may loose tens of thousands of staff.
In relation to care services, government’s analysis has said usual rates of staff leaving social care each year are high, at 34 per cent, which is already a significant risk.
It said: “This is in a sector that is already facing serious recruitment challenges owing to high competition for labour as the economy re-opens, with competing sectors such as retail, logistics and hospitality offering higher wages and better conditions, as well as high levels of vacancies (now higher than pre-pandemic).
“Industry sources suggest that recruitment is “more, or much more” challenging than in April 2021.”
Women make up around 75 per cent of the NHS workforce and the government warned this could mean more women are impacted by its mandatory vaccine police compared to men.
It said women may face more barriers to accessing vaccines, such as caring responsibilities impacting ability to travel to vaccines centres. The risks will be similar for social care where 82 per cent of the workforce is female.
Minority ethnic staff, which make up 20 per cent of the NHS workforce, may also be “significantly” impacted by the new policy.
The government said: “Evidence suggests that minority ethnic groups may be more hesitant about vaccinations more generally.”
An analysis from last year, quoted by the government, revealed vaccine hesitancy was highest in black or black British workers, with the second highest levels in Pakistani and Bangladeshi staff.
The government added: “Although vaccine hesitancy is significantly reducing, more recent analysis by the Office for National Statistics (May/June 2021) indicate that black or black British adults had the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy (18 per cent) compared with white adults ( 4 per cent).”
Once the mandatory vaccine rule comes into force next year, care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission will be tasked with monitoring whether unvaccinated staff are still employed and take action on providers in “appropriate cases.”
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