SoR welcomes Government climb down on compulsory Covid vaccinations and seek further clarity around “consultation”

Ministers announce suspension of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for frontline NHS staff in England.

Published: 01 February 2022 SoR

We are, alongside other NHS unions and employers, seeking clarification around the “consultation”. Our hope is that any potential for the threat to be enacted to a new and different timetable will be removed as soon as possible. We are lobbying Government to this effect.

The SoR supports the vaccination programme and remains a strong advocate for all members to take up the vaccine. However, we have also consistently opposed mandatory vaccinations. Early in January, we joined most of the 14 recognised NHS trade unions in calling for the delay in implementation announced on 31st January.

SoR Executive Director for Industrial Strategy & Member Relations, Dean Rogers explains, “Coercion and threat are less effective than persuasion and come with damaging side effects to staff morale and confidence. It was never an approach that carried the support of unions or employers and if Government had listened to those on the frontline a lot of damage could have been avoided. This would always have been the wrong approach but the timing added an additional layer of absurdity – forcing those managing services to organise mass sackings when they needed to be putting all their energy into recruiting more staff and maintaining services.”

Dean adds, “It is a great relief the English Government have climbed down at the last minute but huge harm has already been done. It has been massively divisive and traumatic experience for many, after the most difficult 2 years in most of our members’ careers. It has been an especially difficult period for our local Representatives and manager members, who have recognised the legislative coercion underpinning the Government position left little practical scope for reason or compromise. This emotional damage will leave a lasting scar across England’s NHS. That’s why this “consultation” is unnecessary. There can be no reasonable grounds to re-start the coercive approach at another time and any potential threat of doing so just continues to damage morale.”

Society Chief Executive Richard Evans said the government's move was welcome but added that the organisation remained in support of vaccination as an effective way of controlling the pandemic.

"This doesn’t change our support for the principle of population vaccination and our encouragement for all of our members that are not clinically exempt to be vaccinated," he said,

The SoR will be looking to continually update Representatives and members in our Leaders’ network as further clarity emerges around the consultation.