OPINION: Britain isn't strong enough to enforce mandatory vaccines on NHS staff
Large protests have gathered to tackle the vaccine mandate on NHS workers - Christopher Walls/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

77,000 people within the NHS are set to lose their jobs over the government’s vaccine mandate.

Whether you agree with this decision or not, such a drastic act should only be taken if the organisation in question has a strong contingency plan in place, or it can afford to take the hit. Spoiler: there is no contingency plan and it cannot afford that hit! 

It seems barbaric, from a logistical point-of-view, to wave goodbye to nearly 80,000 members of staff when you are already suffering a huge staff shortage. A combination of the pandemic and Brexit has left the NHS desperately short across the board and this move really isn’t going to lessen the burden on an overstretched work-force. 

Waiting lists are at an all-time high as we look to simultaneously see-out the Covid-19 and its variants, while trying to deal with all non-Covid related issues. Patient backlogs are not getting smaller and, with no restrictions now in place, a rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations cannot be ruled out. 

We've done well so far

It’s worth remembering that unvaccinated NHS workers have been working throughout the health crisis up until this point; nobody had been vaccinated at the start of the pandemic. The idea that all workers suddenly have to have been vaccinated seems a little bit over-the-top because we have already gone so long without that mandate.

Most of these people will be professionals with a big heart. Those who choose not to have the vaccine are not monsters. Many are vulnerable and they have been indoctrinated by a crazy set of conspiracy theories. Others might have genuinely mitigating circumstances like trypanophobia – an overwhelming fear of needles – or pre-existing medical conditions that might be compromised with the vaccine. 

Being flexible

Here's an idea: give patients the option of having treatment with vaccinated NHS staff members or NHS staff members regardless of their vaccination status. Provide a paper form – or email – for patients, giving them two options:

  • A refusal to be dealt with by unvaccinated NHS workers
  • A stipulation that says you do not mind whether NHS staff who look after you are vaccinated or not

While many will undoubtedly choose the first option, the second could create the possibility of reduced waiting times and clogging systems might gain a bit of breathing space; having the mandate will only extend the already lengthy waiting times for members of the public.

Boris Johnson went to one Britain's many booster centres within the NHS: Adrian Dennis - Pool/GettyImages

It is worth mentioning that NHS staff are expected to keep up-to-date with vaccines that have been introduced over the years. Many health professionals would say that this getting vaccinated is simply what should be expected of them. But – as much as they'd like to be –  the government are not in a strong enough position to stick with this mandate. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the mandate is constantly "under review". He added: “We’re reflecting on it because we do have to accept that the virus has changed." There is, at least, some hope that they have not not nailed their colours to the mast – but time is of the essence. 

Ironically, a decision that is supposed to be for the benefit of public health could simultaneously be of serious detriment to the health of the NHS.