Union warns up to 1,600 staff at Nottingham’s hospitals still need Covid vaccine

By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

A union says around 1,600 members of staff at Nottingham’s two main hospitals are still not fully vaccinated – and some face losing their jobs in April under Government rules to force frontline healthcare workers to get jabs.

Unison warned Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH) – which runs both the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital – could lose up to 10 per cent of its workforce “in the worst-case scenario”.

In December the Government brought in the new rule saying all patient-facing health and social care workers must be fully vaccinated – meaning they have had at least two doses – or face losing their jobs.

It means any frontline staff who have had no jab at all must get a dose by February 3 – to allow for the gap required before the second jab ahead of the April 1 deadline. Those who have only had one jab must get their second by April 1.

But hospital trusts across the country are still working with varying numbers of employees who are either totally unvaccinated or who are yet to get a second jab.

The totals change frequently as staff come forward – and NUH has not made its figure public – but union Unison says around 1,600 staff across the trust are yet to be fully vaccinated.

The figure includes patient-facing staff, and others who could be defined as non patient-facing and so could avoid dismissal under the Government regulation.

About 15,000 people work across the trust, meaning around 10 per cent of staff could be affected.

When asked about the approaching deadlines today, the Department of Health said there are “no plans to change the implementation dates”.

A spokesperson for NUH said the trust is creating a “supportive environment” for staff, who can get their vaccine on shift.

But redeployment opportunities for patient-facing staff who refuse the jab, will be “limited”, a local union official warned, meaning some could lose their jobs.

In the UK population overall, 83 per cent of people over the age of 12 have had both jabs.

Jamie Godber, Unison Branch Secretary at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “As I understand it, we could be looking at up to 1,600 members of staff at risk here. That is a rough estimate of the worst-case scenario.

“What organisation wants to lose 10 per cent of its workforce?

“The only thing we can do is challenge it at a national level and make sure no one is bullied into it.

“My thought is these are going to be some of the most difficult winter pressures with a national staff shortage in the NHS and now this. I think it’s very scary.

“Some people are very fearful of the vaccine – but they rely on their jobs. It is really difficult.”

A Nottingham University Hospitals Trust spokesperson said it encouraged those who are not vaccinated to arrange their jab “as soon as possible”.

They said: “We are providing a supportive environment in which people can ask questions about the vaccination process, so we can understand their concerns.  We are providing answers to members of staff directly and collectively.

“All colleagues are able to get their vaccination whilst on shift and at a time that suits them. Timed bookings, walk-in clinics for staff at NUH sites and advice from nurses who are part of the vaccination team is available.”

Unison recommends that staff get vaccinated – but says it respects people’s right to choose not to.

Mr Godber said: “There will be people who test it in the courts as redeployment for staff is going to be limited.

“Roughly a third to half of the referrals [to the union] in the run-up to Christmas were about this issue.

“Both UNISON and NUH are doing all we can to limit the numbers of staff out of work because of this.”

Needle phobia and allergy concerns are some of the reasons some NHS staff have given for declining a vaccine, among others.

Elsewhere in Nottinghamshire, at Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust (SFH), which runs King’s Mill Hospital, near Mansfield, around 200 of 5,000 staff members are yet to receive the vaccine.

Chief Nurse for SFH Julie Hogg said: “We continue to urge the small minority of colleagues who have not yet had the vaccine to do so in order to help protect themselves, their family and our patients.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson added: “Vaccinations remain our best defence against COVID-19. This is about patient safety and ensuring we are doing everything we can to reduce risk for vulnerable people. There are no plans to change the implementation dates.”

The NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions hospital services, and public health bosses in Nottinghamshire have all encouraged staff to take up the jab.

Amanda Sullivan, Accountable Officer at NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG added: “There are a small minority of colleagues in the local healthcare system who have not yet had the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We continue to encourage those who are unvaccinated to have the life-saving jab to protect themselves, their patients, their colleagues and their families.”

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