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Head of King’s College Hospital Dr Clive Kay accepted he was ‘worried’ as around 10 per cent of approximately 14,000 workers at the hospital are yet to receive a first dose.
Dr Kay said his job was to ‘encourage staff to get vaccinated’ after Health Secretary Sajid Javid was questioned by Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist on the ICU ward, during a visit to the hospital.
The consultant had told the Health Secretary he disagreed with the Government’s decision to make vaccinations mandatory for NHS hospital workers, saying the science was not strong enough to support the move.
TUC called for the mandatory vaccine policy for NHS staff to be delayed to avoid a shortage of key workers, after Dr Steve James (pictured talking to Sajid Javid) told Sajid Javid about his refusal to be vaccinated
Dr Kay refused to comment on ‘individual cases’ but said it was a ‘moot point’ whether or not the measures were fair, as they were now matters of law.
Senior staff at the hospital are now ramping up efforts to encourage hospital workers to get jabbed as the deadline for them to receive a first dose approaches, he said.
In December, MPs approved mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff by April this year.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, Dr Kay said: ‘The law is now such that individuals who are not vaccinated, if they can’t be redeployed, will not be able to work in hospitals if they deal with patients.
‘We’re having conversations with staff, their line managers are having conversations, we have a helpline where colleagues seek clarification and help.’
More than 1,000 members of staff could be lost in an ‘extreme’ scenario unless vaccine uptake within the workforce improves, Dr Kay said.
NHS England data shows a total of 68,082 staff were off sick on Boxing Day. More than a third of the absences (24,632) were because of Covid, up 31 per cent on the 18,829 who missed work because of the virus one week earlier. Covid absences have more than doubled in a fortnight, with just 12,240 off because they were infected or isolating two weeks earlier on December 12
Asked whether he was worried, Dr Kay said: ‘Yes, of course. I think my job is to worry, my job is to worry about everything in relation to whether or not we have enough staff here to provide care for patients and will continue to do so, and we will provide care for patients but ultimately if individuals choose not to (it’s) their choice,’ he said.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi also backed the requirement for NHS staff to be vaccinated despite staff shortages and the anaesthetist’s challenge to Mr Javid.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning show: ‘I think when you work with the most vulnerable people – and those going into hospital are very vulnerable, as are those in our care homes – you have a duty of care.’
After his exchange with Mr Javid’s at KCH, Dr James told the PA news agency that he did not believe Covid was causing ‘very significant problems’ for young people.
He added that his patients in the ICU had been ‘extremely overweight’ with multiple other co-morbidities.
‘I wouldn’t say he agreed with me,’ he said.
‘I had the feeling he was listening.’
Top medic issues warning as number of NHS staff off sick hits 120,000
NHS trusts have ‘never known’ such high staff absences, health chiefs have today warned, with 120,000 staff off work this week — half of them self-isolating or testing positive for Covid — and the Army now being brought in to plug the gaps.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, council chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), says doctors and nurses are under ‘exceptional strain’ covering for colleagues at home.
But Boris Johnson, who sent soldiers to help NHS staff in London today, insists the health service can ‘ride out’ the Omicron wave, as infections and deaths both dropped yesterday.
Far fewer people are also being admitted to intensive care than in previous waves, while the length of time patients spend in hospital is also shortening.
Meanwhile ministers have pushed back against claims hospitals are on the brink of collapse, with Environment Secretary George Eustice predicting the NHS’s acute problems will prove to be ‘quite short lived’.
They have also refused to follow in the footsteps of the US by cutting self-isolation periods to five days – a move some experts say will ease pressure on staffing issues.
It comes as figures leaked to the Health Service Journal today reveal that staff absences at NHS England went from 80,000 on January 2 to just under 120,000 on Wednesday January 5 — 20 per cent higher than the peak last January.
Around 62,000 of the total 120,000 absences reported 48 hours ago were people who had tested positive for Covid or self-isolating.
The highest rates of absence were in the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire, and the North West — where more than 10 per cent of all staff are off.
These trusts also already had the absence rates amongst staff before the pandemic.
Source: Daily Mail