Mandatory vaccination for NHS and social care workers is set to be scrapped. Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary, said he believes that the position has now changed with the omicron variant proving to be milder than previous versions of the virus. No doubt the shortage of workers in health and social care was also a consideration, with the U-turn preceded by warnings of shortages of up to 80,000 workers in the sector. On top of existing absence figures within those sectors, further workforce shortages could have pushed the sector to the brink, with unions warning it could have had a catastrophic impact on services. Mr Javid has said that the government will launch a consultation on ending the mandate and, subject to responses, the regulations will be revoked.
The change comes just before a looming deadline for NHS workers. With mandatory vaccines set to come into force in April 2022, Thursday 3rd February was the last day for staff to get their jabs in order to be fully vaccinated in time for the deadline. NHS guidelines to employers said staff should be invited for formal meetings from 4th February to warn them that they face dismissal. The potential U-turn comes too late for care home staff, for whom mandatory vaccination was introduced in November. It is expected that those 40,000 who lost their jobs will be able to return to the sector if the mandate is overturned which will be a relief both for those employees and the care home employers alike.
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