The government’s case for implementing mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for NHS staff in England has failed to address how the health service will cope when thousands of staff leave their jobs as a result, a report has warned.
A new report, published today by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, has ruled that the government’s evidence for the move was “broad-brush” and “superficial”.
It added that the potential benefits of the proposal seemed “disproportionately small”, given the subsequent costs for recruitment and the disruption it would have on the health service.
Earlier this month, health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, revealed that following a public consultation, full vaccination against Covid-19 would become compulsory for all health and social care staff in England who have face-to-face contact with patients.
The move to make Covid-19 vaccination a condition of deployment has already came into force this month for staff working in care homes for adults.
Subject to parliamentary approval, it would be extended to include NHS staff, as well as those working in the independent and local authority sectors, and become enforceable from April 2022.
The rule will not apply to those with a medical exemption or those who have no direct contact with patients or service users as part of their role.
At the time, Mr Javid said introducing mandatory vaccinations in the NHS would help to avoid preventable harm as well as protect patients, staff and the health service itself.
But today, the Lords committee scrutinising the proposals has outlined several key concerns about the quality of evidence supplied to support the proposed legislation.
In its new report, the group said there was a lack of detail from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on the impact that the move would have on the health service.
The government’s explanatory notes are “silent on what contingency plans DHSC is making to cope with expected staff losses when these regulations take effect”, said the report, which warned the problem was “likely to be particularly acute in London”.
Estimations from the DHSC suggest that, of the 208,000 currently unvaccinated workers in the health service, the proposed legislation would see 54,000 (26%) additional staff being vaccinated against Covid-19, noted the report.
However, the policy would also see 126,000 (61%) leaving their jobs because of “non-compliance” with the new requirement, it added.
“This seems a disproportionately small gain for legislation that is anticipated to cause £270m in additional costs and major disruption to the health and care provision at the end of the grace period,” said the report.
“The house may expect to be provided with some very strong evidence to suThe content of the government’s explanatory notes was “minimal”, added the committee, “giving only a high-level overview of the policy without giving an adequate description of how the legislation will apply in the real world or what its consequences may be”.
In addition, it stressed that expert advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation was “alluded to, but never presented for scrutiny”.
The committee also criticised the DHSC for failing to include “practical detail” within its legislation proposal around how key expressions, such as “face-to-face”, will be applied.
Commenting on its report, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, chair of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, also condemned the government for not providing an “impact assessment” for the move.
“DHSC has published a very broad-brush document they call an ‘impact statement’, but this is no substitute for a thorough ‘impact assessment’ which should have been integral to the policy development process,” he said, noting the accompanying explanatory notes were also “superficial”.
He added: “We fully support high levels of vaccination, but DHSC is accountable to parliament for its decisions and needs to give us a clear statement of the effect of these regulations, the effect of doing nothing and any other solutions considered, so parliament fully understands all the consequences of what it is being asked to agree to.
“This is particularly important when the NHS is already under such pressure,” he said. “DHSC has provided no single coherent statement to explain and justify its intended policy, and this undermines the ability of the House to undertake effective scrutiny of the proposed legislation.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.