'Have the vaccine or change your job' - the choice facing Scarborough’s NHS workers

A regional union official has issued a warning after the announcement that NHS staff in England must be fully vaccinated against Covid.

By Louise Perrin
Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 4:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 4:06 pm
Scarborough Hospital
Scarborough Hospital

Health secretary Sajid Javid has announced that it will be mandatory for NHS England's 1.2 million full-time staff to be fully vaccinated from April next year.

The announcement has caused concern among unions and those working in the profession that it will put services under pressure as people are forced to accept the vaccination or change careers.

Speaking on behalf of the public service union Unison, North Yorkshire’s regional officer, Ray Gray, said that while the union backed vaccination, there was concern about the requirement for the vaccinations to be mandatory for all staff.

Mr Gray said: “I don’t believe any of them should have to make the choice between taking the vaccine or changing their job.”

The latest figures available show that out of the 9,840 staff employed by York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, 94.9% (9,340) had received the first dose of the Covid vaccine by September 30 this year and of these 9,129 had been double vaccinated.

In total, 500 NHS staff at the Trust remained unvaccinated at the end of September.

Similar figures are evident across Yorkshire and the North East. Of the 240,115 NHS staff 94.9% (227,869) had received the first dose of the covid vaccine by October 31 this year, of these 221,914 had been double vaccinated,

In total, 12,246 NHS staff in the region remain unvaccinated as of the end of October.

Mr Gray said: “As a union, we are encouraging all members who work in the care sector and the NHS to have the vaccine as we believe it offers the best protection for both them and their patients.

“However, we are against compulsory vaccinations. If people don’t want to have the vaccine we need to sit down and talk to them to find out why.

“Some are sick, some have an exemption, some are scared of needles.

“So just saying you don’t have a choice… we have to be better than that. We have to talk it through.

“These are two sectors that are already short-staffed and this is not going to help that position.

“We have to be prepared to sit and listen.”

In a statement to MPs, Mr Javid said: "Having considered the consultation responses, the advice of my officials and NHS leaders including the chief executive of the NHS, I have concluded that all those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated.

"We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself."

Retired Scarborough nurse Denise Earnshaw said: “I totally agree that all NHS staff should have the Covid vaccine.

“They themselves, and their families, need to be protected, but more importantly the vulnerable people that are being treated by NHS staff deserve to be protected as well.

“I personally know a few people that have been double vaccinated and are still catching the Covid virus.

“Whether they need to be hospitalised or not, some of them are very ill at home, and 'care' has to be put in thus putting carers at risk as well.

“There is a time period to allow the staff to have the two vaccines which is good.

“With this in place along with the boosters and the over 12s being vaccinated now rolled out, hopefully the country will finally be able to get on top of things and the numbers of people catching Covid will be down to manageable levels.”