You’ve no doubt read about the recent announcement by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid outlining his plans for the rollout of compulsory covid vaccines for NHS workers.

For those that aren’t fully up-to-speed, in short, frontline NHS staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid. 

According to recent reports (BBC), a deadline will be set for April next year to give unvaccinated staff time to get both doses. 

As it stands, the latest NHS figures show that 90% of NHS personnel in England – 1,303,605 out of 1,452,256 – have had two doses of vaccine. However, as recently as September the figure was as low as 78% in some trusts – barely three out of four.

The government's decision follows a consultation which began in September and considered whether both the Covid and flu jabs should be compulsory for frontline NHS and care workers.

Despite criticism that forcing frontline personnel to get jabbed is heavy-handed and will lead some to quit, there's about 1.45 million NHS staff in England currently, who for personal reasons may not wish to be vaccinated. That figure also doesn’t necessarily include agency staff where we know more than £1.7billion was spent on agency staff by NHS trusts in the first three-quarters of 2020-21.

Commenting on the takeup of vaccines by NHS workers, last month, the Health Secretary told the BBC that he did not want the NHS to lose any staff, but said the experience in the social care sector was that the numbers taking up the vaccine "absolutely surged" after it was made compulsory.

In addition to the comments made by the Health Secretary, last week, Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said that while a majority of hospital bosses backed jabs becoming compulsory, more than 90% of them feared it could exacerbate the understaffing that is already endemic across the service.

He highlighted “the potential loss of those staff who don’t take the vaccine when the service is already under huge pressure and carrying 93,000 vacancies”. He said: “The government must recognise the risk of losing unvaccinated frontline staff and support efforts to maximise voluntary take-up first.”

With the proposal being to implement similar rules to the care sector, where workers from Thursday will have to prove they have been double-jabbed or face being dismissed from the care home in which they are employed - will this enforcement be accepted by a considerably larger pool of workers? The most recent data suggests about 90% of the care sector’s 600,000 personnel have had two doses, leaving 60,000 who have not.

So what does this mean for the recruitment landscape? 

If around 60,000 care workers do in fact feel strongly enough about not wanting to be vaccinated and the huge number of NHS frontline workers who still aren't fully vaccinated don’t want to have the jab, we will experience a huge gap in skilled workers before the typically difficult winter season for the vulnerable even begins. 

Commenting specifically on staffing, the Health Secretary said; “there will be anxiety at trust level that a policy, however laudable in principle, could exacerbate some of these chronic understaffing problems - we simply cannot afford to lose thousands of NHS staff overnight," 

With this now set to be enforced, we may see a sudden surge in vacancies on our hands. With 93,000 open vacancies still needing to be filled, recruiters will have to prioritise sourcing skilled individuals who are both fully vaccinated and have the experience and knowledge necessary to carry out such an implant role. 

  • At Randstad our experience placing skilled healthcare professionals into roles spans back over 30 years. If you’re looking to fill a role, or looking for a new opportunity yourself, drop me a line and we can assist with whichever route you are looking to take. 


about the author
richard cunningham
richard cunningham

Richard Cunningham

regional director - randstad care