TUC calls for government to delay introduction of mandatory vaccination policy to avert NHS staffing crisis

10 Jan 2022 11:52 AM

The TUC is calling for the government to delay the introduction of mandatory vaccinations for NHS workers in bid to avert a staffing crisis. 

NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508). 

The TUC warns introduction of the mandatory vaccination policy will exacerbate this crisis, creating a bureaucratic and staffing nightmare for NHS Trusts and making it impossible to maintain safe staffing levels in the coming weeks.  

And the union body strongly urges everyone who isn’t medically exempt to get vaccinated and boosted, and for ministers to make that as easy for whole NHS staff team. 

The union body says ministers must:  

Recruitment and retention crisis 

The TUC says the current staffing crisis existed well before the pandemic, driven by a decade of funding cuts and pay restraint. On the eve of the pandemic in 2019, close to one in ten posts in the NHS were vacant – a rate far higher than comparable healthcare systems elsewhere in Europe.  

Unfilled vacancies put huge strain on staff, leading to burnout, absenteeism and turnover. And the cumulative impact of coping with these shortages whilst working on the frontline of the pandemic, has led many key workers in the NHS to breaking point, says the TUC.

A resilient and robust NHS 

The TUC is calling on the government to listen to NHS staff and their unions and fix the long-term issues behind the current crisis. The union body says ministers must:  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady recently said:  

“We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis, borne not only from covid absences, but also long-term problems that need long-term solutions. Now is not the right time to introduce more bureaucracy.  

“Legislation for this policy has passed but this is precisely the wrong time to implement it. NHS Trusts need to focus their resources on patient care. 

“We need to keep patients safe and maintain safe staffing levels. As hospitals declare critical incidents amid a surge in Covid cases, the NHS cannot afford to lose experienced and skilled staff.” 

Editors Note

Contacts: 

TUC press office  
media@tuc.org.uk   
020 7467 1248