Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said NHS staff can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment with the confirmation that health and social care secretary Sajid Javid was now entering into a consultation on the issue of mandatory vaccinations for the workforce.
However, the union warned that the eleventh-hour announcement has only prolonged the uncertainty for the NHS which is engulfed in a staffing crisis. Unite said that the consultation must be swift and decisive.
Unite said it was strongly in favour of NHS and social care staff being fully vaccinated, but has been consistently against mandatory vaccination which could have led to thousands of vitally needed frontline workers losing their jobs in April.
Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “The government has created needless confusion on this issue and this eleventh-hour intervention actually prolongs the stress endured by thousands of NHS staff. So the Javid review must report urgently. NHS staff now face more agonising uncertainty when the health service is buckling under the pressure of 100,000 staff vacancies.
“The mandatory vaccination legislation was an unnecessary distraction from the NHS crisis which has developed due to chronic underinvestment over the last decade and is manifest in the six million people on waiting lists for urgent treatment.”
Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “Following months of distress for staff, who have been worried sick about losing their jobs, ministers and top NHS executives should renew their efforts to repairing the morale of an exhausted workforce that has valiantly battled the pandemic over the last two years. Unite’s reps will now be working day and night to assist our members in understanding where they now stand.
“We demand any worker who has lost their job, as a result of this bungled policy, gets their job back and receives compensation without recourse to an employment tribunal.”
Unite believes the current Health and Care Bill must be scrapped; funding the health and social care system properly is a priority, as well as awarding health and NHS workers a restorative pay rise that addresses the current cost of the living crisis to retain and recruit NHS staff.
Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.