Delivering the covid vaccine mandate has become a “massive task and distraction” for frontline managers and HR staff, a trust’s director of workforce has said.
Norma French was speaking at a Whittington Health Trust board meeting on Thursday.
WHT chief executive Siobhan Harrington described the situation at the meeting as “t-minus seven” as there are now seven days remaining until the 3 February deadline by which patient-facing staff must have had the first dose, under the government’s “vaccine as a condition of deployment” policy.
Tens of thousands of staff remain unvaccinated, according to official figures, with particular concerns for maternity services, and in London.
Several trusts have told HSJ that data-cleaning and discussions with staff have led to many more being vaccinated. Despite this, they have several hundred, and in some cases more than 1,000, who are still recorded as unvaccinated or unknown.
WHT’s board heard 91 per cent of staff have received their first covid jab, 87 per cent have had their second and up to 60 per cent have got their booster, although Ms French said figures are “changing on a daily basis”.
She said: “I look at this whole process in three phases. We’re in the sort of ‘data cleanse’ part at the moment and determining who and what is in and out of scope, and that is a very, very detailed exercise.
“Then we’ve got phase two, which Siobhan alluded to, which will kick off around the third or fourth of February, where we will all know the cohort of staff who are not vaccinated, who are in scope.
“There is some very, very detailed work with them throughout February and March.
“We must not lose sight of post-April. We will have a group of staff who may be left working here who have lost colleagues, potentially, and also managers who may not have dealt with this level of interaction with colleagues over the previous two months and supporting them.
“That, for me, is the third phase. It’s the resilience and the mitigations post 1 April which will become clear as every day goes by.”
The WHT board was asked whether the government’s mandate was a “particularly acute” issue for the trust and if there were any key areas of focus.
Ms Harrington said: “I think people have gone through a range of emotions. We had a webinar recently and you could tell that people were feeling a mixture of emotions; some people feel a bit angry about it, some people feel frustrated, some people are quite accepting.
“I’m a nurse, I’ve had Hep B vaccinations… this is about keeping people safe. I think there is a range of emotions and a range of feelings.
“That is why having very personal conversations, with people who trust people, is the most important thing and that is quite intensive on all managers. So, for managers, this is also quite hard.”
She also told the board that, while there were previous discussions about maternity, the number of unvaccinated staff in that area has “really come down”.
However, she added there is a focus currently on community children’s services where “there need to be more conversations, more discussions”.