Bigger job threat to black NHS staff over Covid vaccine

·3 min read
Bigger job threat to black NHS staff over Covid vaccine

A disproportionate number of black healthcare staff are at risk of losing their jobs if they fail to get vaccinated against Covid, one of the NHS’s most senior leaders has warned.

Sir Hugh Taylor, chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust, where Boris Johnson was saved from Covid, said there was a risk it would have to “part company with a significant number of staff” to comply with the mandatory vaccination rules.

One in eight of its 22,000 staff are unvaccinated and trust chiefs fear efforts to reduce the backlog of cancer treatment and non-emergency operations will be blighted if hundreds have to be dismissed in April.

The Government requires all front-line workers, as well as non-clinical staff who may have face to face contact with patients, such as porters, cleaners and receptionists, to be double-jabbed by March 31.

Sir Hugh, who also chairs King’s College hospitals, said moves to implement the new rules were reaching a “critical stage” and warned of two major problems.

He said: “One is the potential impact on our services if the result is that we have to part company with a significant number of staff.

“Second, the wider problem we are wrestling with here, which is the potential, given their prevalence in the unvaccinated population, of potentially a disproportionate number of those facing action being from our black British, black African and black Caribbean staff.”

Guy’s and St Thomas’ said 88 per cent of its staff were vaccinated, but estimated that 97 per cent of its workforce were “patient facing” and would have to be double-jabbed to avoid redeployment or redundancy.

Julie Screaton, the trust’s chief people officer, said staff were “understandably concerned”. She said: “We are supporting our colleagues who are having to make a very difficult decision about whether to be vaccinated, and about their employment.”

Last week the Standard revealed that about 1,600 staff at Barts Health, another major London NHS trust, were at risk of losing their job.

More than 182,000 of the 210,000 NHS hospital workers in London have been double-jabbed, but it is unclear how many are at risk of redundancy.

The Government says it is “committed” to introducing mandatory vaccination in the NHS, despite reports the policy may be ditched.

Paul Scully, the Minister for London, told MPs this week: “For most people, whether to get vaccinated is a matter of personal choice, but there are some high-risk settings in which we believe it is proportionate to take further steps to protect the most vulnerable.

“People working in health and care look after some of the most vulnerable in our society, and therefore carry a unique responsibility.

“Every unvaccinated healthcare worker increases the risk to themselves, their colleagues and the vulnerable people in their care.”

Mr Scully, speaking in a Westminster Hall debate after more than 190,000 people petitioned the Government over mandatory vaccinations, added: “As the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has rightly said, ‘people who are looking after other people who are very vulnerable do have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated, so we remain committed to bringing these measures in on 1 April.”

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