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Opposition to Vaccine Mandate Grows

Another Royal College has come out against mandatory vaccination of NHS staff, citing the potential impact on already stretched staffing numbers.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has asked the Government "to re-consider introducing regulations on mandatory vaccination at this time, because of the potential impact on the safe delivery of maternity services".

Staffing Levels 'Fragile'

The RCOG pointed out that safe staffing levels in the maternity workforce were already "extremely fragile" even before the pandemic, with an estimated shortfall of around 500 doctors and 2000 midwives. "There is a high level of risk associated with understaffed maternity care, and we believe the loss of unvaccinated staff across maternity services at this time should be avoided," the College’s statement said.

Both the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and the Royal College of Nursing have already called for the policy to be delayed, and the British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a “thorough impact assessment” on the potential impact of the policy on NHS staffing levels.

BMA consultants’ committee chair Vishal Sharma was reported as saying he felt that the Government should take steps to promote uptake rather than taking a "coercive approach".

"We can't afford to lose any staff at all from the NHS," he said.

Deadline Approaching

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is stated to be "reflecting" on the policy’s implementation, but unless the Government rows back soon, staff who are unvaccinated face an interim deadline of February 3 - next Thursday - to get a first dose in order to comply with the current timeline under which all patient-facing NHS staff must be fully vaccinated by April 1, 2022, unless exempt. Those who are not jabbed by then, and who cannot be redeployed, face losing their jobs.

RCOG President Dr Edward Morris said: "We are increasingly concerned about the risk to safe staffing of maternity services that the new regulations being introduced on mandatory vaccination will cause, an issue which has been highlighted by our colleagues in the Royal College of Midwives.

"Maternity services require specialist staff whose skill cannot be replicated elsewhere in the NHS. The risk of doctors, midwives or maternity support workers being dismissed from frontline roles in maternity because they are unvaccinated creates a far greater risk to maternity services’ ability to deliver safe, high-quality care for women."

Legal Challenges

Meanwhile eight medical professionals launched a further legal challenge to the policy today (Friday 28 February). The group, including Dr Steve James as lead claimant, is seeking a judicial review, supported by the Together Declaration, which is campaigning to stop the mandate. Dr James is the consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London who spoke out against the mandate during a highly-publicised televised visit by Mr Javid to his ICU earlier this month. The campaign group NHS 100k, which favours informed consent over mandatory vaccination, is also backing the action.

However a previous legal challenge last November failed when the judge refused permission to launch a judicial review into the mandate for care home workers to be double jabbed. Almost 4000 care workers were lost to the sector.

Lead Image Credit: Getty Images