Doctors welcome government climbdown on mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff

(Photo: iStock/Nick Beer)

A group of doctors and healthcare professionals has welcomed the government U-turn on mandatory vaccination for frontline healthcare workers in England.

The government had wanted all NHS staff to be fully vaccinated by 1 April but it has backed down on the unpopular plans after warnings of a staff exodus. 

Over 550 health professionals who are themselves vaccinated called the plans "potentially harmful, mistimed, discriminatory and unjust". 

In a letter to health secretary Sajid Javid, they also warned that the measures would have caused "more harm than good" by forcing thousands of staff out of the NHS and "further exacerbating the vacancies that already exist in the NHS and social care system".

"With a large backlog of patients still to be seen, as well as the increase in stress-related medical conditions caused by the pandemic, this is a time when we can least afford to lose large numbers of staff," they said. 

The letter was organised by Dr John Greenall, a Bedfordshire-based paediatrician and Associate CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

He warned that the proposals would have been a huge injustice for healthcare workers who have worked hard during the pandemic under huge strain and at risk to their own health. 

He said it was "sensible" of the government to climb down on the proposals. 

"I am vaccinated and believe vaccines have supported our route out of lockdowns. However, for some people, they are not medically appropriate, while others might have deeply held religious or philosophical objections, which should be respected where possible," he said. 

"This is why more than 550 of my vaccinated colleagues felt the need to write to the government calling on them to pause this punitive and discriminatory policy.

"We hope going forward that ministers and officials will realise that coercion and threats do not support the morale of a workforce that has been operating under the greatest pressure imaginable for nearly two years and a better approach is to engage with all them and to encourage and persuade."