Mandatory vaccines for NHS and social care workers could be scrapped after staffing crisis warnings

Protesters against the mandatory NHS jab policy. Credit: PA

The government is expected to U-turn on its plan for mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care workers, according to reports.

Sajid Javid has been facing pressure to scrap the requirement for health workers in England to be vaccinated by April - amid fears it will lead to a major staffing crisis.

The Health Secretary is set to meet ministers on the Covid-Operations Cabinet committee on Monday to confirm the U-turn, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper reported that the government is ending the policy because Omicron is milder than previous variants.

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It comes despite the Department of Health and Social Care saying last Monday there were no plans to change the policy, following a number of reports suggesting ministers were considering an 11th-hour delay.

The health secretary then said on Tuesday that the policy is being “kept under review”.

Mr Javid said that it was “right” to reflect on Covid-19 policies but he added that frontline NHS staff should get a Covid-19 jab as a “professional duty”.

He went on to say that plans for compulsory jabs were made when the Delta variant of the virus was the dominant strain in the UK, but now “almost all” cases are the Omicron variant which is “intrinsically less severe”.

Conservative MPs welcomed the reports of a U-turn on Sunday with Andrew Rosindell tweeting that Mr Javid had made “the right decision”.

He said: “These free-thinking NHS workers’ jobs are saved and quite right too.

“Well done all those who had the courage to stand up for the values of a free society!”

Meanwhile, Mark Harper called the reported decision a “huge win. My backbench colleagues & I have been pushing hard to spare the sack for tens of thousands of NHS & care workers,” he tweeted.

“It beggars belief that the PM & Health Secretary kept insisting on bulldozing this policy through, despite warnings of staff shortages, for so long.”

The Government is expected to announce a U-turn on mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care staff, according to reports Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

The policy would mean frontline staff in the NHS and registered social care settings must have their first vaccine doses by February 3 and they must be double jabbed before the policy kicks in on April 1.

There have been protests and calls for the policy to be delayed, amid fears that it could force thousands of frontline workers to leave their roles at a time when patient demand is high.

Both the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) urged for the deadline to be put back.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association called for an “urgent impact assessment” on how the policy would affect staffing numbers.

Patricia Marquis, RCN director of England, said: “If these reports are correct, this climbdown by government is long overdue.

“Vaccination is hugely important but this was the wrong policy, especially as it added to the current pressure on NHS and care services.

“It was never in the interests of patient safety to threaten tens of thousands with dismissal in the middle of staffing crisis.

“We will continue to support government and employers to make the case for vaccination.”