Delay in making Covid vaccine mandatory is ‘sensible’ ahead of winter pressures, says BMA 

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 9 November 2021

Responding to news that the Covid-19 vaccine will be made mandatory for all NHS staff in England but not until spring 2022, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: 
“While the BMA has serious concerns about making vaccination mandatory, we’re pleased that the Government has, as we recommended, decided to delay the policy of mandatory vaccination for Covid-19 until spring next year, and released both its workforce impact assessment and it’s equality impact assessment.
“Given the current staffing crisis in the NHS and the possible implications of trying to introduce such measures in the midst of winter pressures, waiting until April is sensible, but it’s equally important that the Government is aware of the consequences this policy could have even after the delay – and that clear steps are taken to mitigate this risk.
“Vaccination coverage among NHS workers is high – the latest data shows that in several hospital trusts in England the number of staff who have had both vaccinations is in excess of 90%. Even if a small number of staff were forced out of work because they are not vaccinated though, this would have a big impact on a health service that’s now under constant pressure and already has more than 93,000 unfilled vacancies. There may be potential for some healthcare workers to move to non-patient facing roles, and we would urge employers to explore all possible options rather than lose staff completely. Any reduction in the workforce will impact heavily on patient facing services as we face a record backlog of care. 
“In the meantime, we’re pleased that Government has listened to us regarding the flu vaccine by deciding to not make it mandatory for healthcare workers. The flu vaccination campaign has been successful at increasing coverage year-on-year with a voluntary approach and we expect this trend to continue. As with the Covid-19 vaccine, the BMA fully supports the flu vaccine rollout and it’s important that every NHS worker is vaccinated, other than those who are unable to for medical reasons. It's vital that we understand why those who are eligible but unwilling might still not want the vaccine. Patients should feel safe and many understandably expect to be looked after by someone who has been vaccinated.
“However, as we argued ahead of today’s announcement, there is an important distinction between believing every healthcare worker should be vaccinated and advocating mandatory vaccinations for all NHS staff. Doing this comes with its own practical and also ethical implications – such as the right for anyone to make their own private healthcare decisions - and we hope that as Government progresses with plans to make the Covid jab compulsory for NHS staff, these are carefully considered and taken into account.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.