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Trust drops plan to insist on covid vaccination for all staff

Published on: 26 Jan 2022

An acute trust has dropped a proposal to mandate two covid-19 vaccinations for all staff regardless of whether they were patient facing in a move which would have gone further than national guidelines require.

Last week the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust drafted a letter to staff which stated that its whole workforce would need to be double vaccinated by the end of March. The only exceptions would be for those with valid and certified medical exemptions.

The instruction went further than the latest NHS England guidance on mandatory staff vaccinations, which says only staff who are “in-scope” are required to get the jabs. In-scope staff are typically those clinical and non-clinical staff who come into contact with patients during their work. Those that refused, would be redeployed or, potentially, dismissed.

HSJ reported last week that some trusts were considering “parity of dismissal” policy, where all staff would be told to get fully vaccinated, in a bid to protect their organisations from legal claims of discrimination from those who were told they were to lose their job.

The draft letter, seen by HSJ but never sent, stated that: “For employees… mandatory vaccination will become a condition of employment and failure to receive both doses of the vaccination by 1 April 2022 will impact on your employment at [RCHT].”

The draft was signed by new chief executive Steve Williamson, who took over from interim chief Tony Chambers this month, as well as Kim O’Keeffe and Allister Grant, the trust’s nursing director and medical director respectively.

However, HSJ has learned that the trust last week retracted the proposal after meeting with unions and receiving further legal advice.

A RCHT spokeswoman said: “We have been carefully considering which groups of staff fall into the scope of mandated vaccination and had noted the reference within the… guidance to face-to-face and incidental patient contact.

“More detailed information has been fluid and fast moving and the letter was an early and outdated draft of a range of options we had shared with our staff-side colleagues for discussion.”

This account was contradicted by a source at the trust, who said the draft letter was presented as a “done deal” and was due to be sent to staff “imminently”.

The RCHT spokeswoman added: “We will not be mandating vaccination for all staff, but will be applying exemptions in the same way as other NHS trusts.”

The new law on mandatory vaccinations is due to come into effect on 1 April, meaning staff must have their first vaccination by 3 February to ensure they can be double vaccinated by 1 April.