Hospitals facing staff crisis as vaccination deadline approaches

King George and Queen’s Hospitals may lose up to 1,300 staff after a new law about mandatory COVID vaccines comes into force in April.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, BHRUT’s chief executive officer Matthew Trainer said 17.4% of staff are not recorded as vaccinated against COVID-19.

The hospital departments with the least vaccinated staff are maternity services, children’s health and clinical support, he told the meeting.

The law means BHRUT’s 7,550 staff need to have had their first dose by February 3 in order to be fully-vaccinated by March 31.

Losing a large group of unvaccinated staff could put additional strain on the hospital, already facing a need for extra beds during winter, long-term staff shortages and 200 COVID in-patients.

The hospital’s chief executive said he plans to meet with a group of staff who have “strong views” this week to tell them that BHRUT “cannot opt out” of the law.

He said: “I think it’s very important that we recognise and respect the concerns of some members of staff who have not had the vaccination.

“Looking at social media and some of the coverage of this, there’s been quite an entrenched position taken around this and yet talking to staff, people have all kinds of different concerns around this.

“The risk is, if we draw more entrenched lines the harder it is for people who have not had their vaccination to change their minds and come forward and have one.

“We need to be careful not to present this as almost an unethical thing to do – that risks driving people into quite a hard position about this, I would like to create time to have supportive conversations with colleagues to encourage them to change their mind.

“I would be extremely sorry to have to let experienced members of NHS staff go because they haven’t had their vaccination and yet, because they haven’t had it, contractually that would be the end of it.”

The board heard that maternity services has 35 unfilled posts, which poses a risk if more staff are needed to help with a difficult birth.

Jackie Westaway, chair of the quality and assurance committee, said despite the “particular pressure” on maternity services, more staff are joining and the trust is using “really quite creative” ways to manage the midwives it does have.

In a letter to staff, published with the board meeting papers, Matthew pleads with staff to have the vaccine to reduce their risk of hospitalisation and lower the chance of passing COVID on to others.

He adds: “If redeployment is not possible, then based on the latest advice we have received your contract of employment is likely to be terminated on March 31.

“I am very sad to have to write to fellow NHS colleagues in this manner.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter

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