The NHS could be forced to dismiss almost 2,000 midwives by the government’s mandatory vaccination policy, amid warnings from a former chief nurse of England that mothers and babies will be put at risk.
Well-placed senior sources have told HSJ around 1,700 midwives remain unvaccinated nationally, according to the latest data from trusts.
Based on official headcount data that would amount to between 6.5 to 8 per cent of the workforce, depending on whether it counts full time equivalent or total staff numbers.
However, they are mostly in London, with the latest estimate in the city said to be about 680 (representing between 12 and 14 per cent of the workforce), several well placed sources told HSJ, meaning its maternity services could be seriously destabilised.
A former chief nurse of England, Sarah Mullally, who now sits in the House of Lords as the Bishop of London, said she believed about 12.5 per cent of London’s midwives were unvaccinated, and called on the government to delay the mandatory health worker vaccination policy.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, she warned mothers and babies would be put at risk, “in order to implement a policy that has been superseded by the evolution of the virus”.
She added: “I would strongly encourage everyone, including NHS staff and health care workers, to get fully vaccinated. “However, having heard from midwives myself this week, I can see the anxiety that the requirement for mandatory vaccination is causing, as well as the potential risks to the heath service and its patients.
“It is estimated that London could lose 12.5 per cent of its midwives, putting at risk the lives of pregnant women and their babies.
“Such loss of staff might be thought justified, were it not the case that two doses of the vaccine are not understood to be protective against the omicron variant of covid 19. So, we shall lose precious midwives in order to implement a policy that has been superseded by the evolution of the virus.”
The Rt Revd Mullally is now Bishop of London and chairs the Church of England’s covid recovery group. She was chief nursing officer for England between 1999 and 2004.
She follows the Royal College and Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives in calling for an “immediate delay” to government plans for compulsory vaccination. Last week a major London acute trust also warned maternity services could be threatened by the mandatory vaccination policy and high midwife vacancy rates.
The Department of Health and Social Care said earlier this week: “Health and social care workers look after the most vulnerable people in society, who could face serious health consequences if exposed to the virus. Ensuring staff are vaccinated is the right thing to do to protect patients and those in care. The vast majority of NHS staff have had the vaccine which is our best defence against covid-19.”