The RCP has responded to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation, saying that vaccination should not be a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector within England.
The RCP does not support the proposal to require those undertaking regulated activities in healthcare or social care settings to have COVID-19 and flu vaccines. While the RCP wholeheartedly encourages all its members to take up the offer of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, we believe it is essential that this remains a free choice for all health and care staff.
The findings of our most recent survey of RCP members (further details of which are below) found that 99% of respondents had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, illustrating that the current voluntary approach to vaccination does work. We are very concerned that if this were made a condition of deployment it could have a negative and far-reaching impact on the NHS workforce.
As the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has explained in its formal position on compulsory vaccination, which is supported by the RCP, introducing such a requirement will cause difficulties and disputes at local and national levels. That will ultimately only distract from the core focus on vaccinating as many people as possible and delivering high quality patient care.
There is also a risk that making vaccination a condition of deployment will drive those who choose not to receive the vaccine or accept redeployment to leave the NHS. That will create further capacity issues at a time when the health service is already overstretched.
Key findings of the RCP ‘COVID-19 and the workforce’ survey
The RCP surveyed 866 of its members between 30 September and 4 October. We found that
- 99% of respondents had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, 33% had also had a booster and another 40% had arranged to receive it
- 61.5% said they are feeling tired or exhausted with respect to work
- 20% said they expected to retire in the next three years, and a further 16% were considering retiring in the next three years
- there long delays for inpatient diagnostic tests in clinical physiology (29%), nuclear medicine (17%) and endoscopy (14%)
- long delays were reported for outpatient diagnostic tests in clinical physiology (43%), endoscopy (34%), CT and MRI scans (25%), and nuclear medicine (24%).
These findings demonstrate high levels of vaccination amongst the physician workforce. They also show that morale is low following the experience of the pandemic and a significant diagnostic backlog in certain specialties.
They provide important context about the situation on the ground in the NHS, which we believe the government should be mindful of when considering whether to introduce compulsory vaccination. As set out in the previous section, we share the concerns of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges that this policy will cause disputes and create a distraction from the delivery of patient care.