Mandatory vaccination – College statement

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has issued the following statement about mandatory vaccination of NHS frontline healthcare staff in England. 

We strongly encourage our members to take up the COVID-19 vaccine for their own wellbeing and to protect those that they treat and care for.

There is clear evidence that it reduces the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 and helps reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus.

As the professional body representing psychiatrists, we believe getting vaccinated is in the best interests of patients and will help reassure anyone who feels anxious about its safety.

In response to last year’s NHS consultation, we opposed a mandatory approach because we believe existing requirements set out by the General Medical Council (GMC) – that clinicians “should be immunised against common serious communicable diseases (unless otherwise contraindicated)” – are sufficient.

However, we recognise that it will be a legal requirement for NHS staff in England to have had their first vaccine by 3 February and be fully vaccinated by 1 April.

We have serious concerns about the potential impact this may have on workforce capacity, training and patient care, particularly at a time when services are already severely stretched and dealing with chronic staff shortages. 

In order to mitigate the risk of losing valuable clinicians from the workforce, we ask that trusts ensure that implementation of the mandatory vaccination requirement is as flexible as possible.

Where circumstances allow it, redeployment rather than dismissal should be considered in the short term to allow people more time to overcome fears and concerns, and to eventually change their position.

It is vital that the Government assess the introduction of this policy in real time and should there be a clear negative impact on patient care, consider delaying or modifying its implementation.

As the threat of the virus to health and life is minimised and the evidence around risk management changes, we will be asking the Government to review mandatory vaccination measures for NHS staff.

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