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The NHS will begin sacking staff who have not had a Covid vaccine in just over two weeks, new guidance reveals.

All frontline staff are required to have had two jabs by April 1, meaning the first dose must have been administered by Feb 3. More than 80,000 – six per cent of the workforce – remain unvaccinated despite repeated efforts to boost take-up.

Last week, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) urged ministers to delay the rules, saying they could have a “catastrophic” impact on the delivery of services.

NHS guidance to employers says all frontline staff who have not been vaccinated should start being called into formal meetings from Feb 4 and warned that they face dismissal. Dismissal notices will start being issued from that day, with the notice period ending on March 31.

Roles covered by the rules include porters, receptionists and ward clerks as well as doctors and nurses.

Frontline staff can be redeployed into backroom roles

NHS managers have been told they can redeploy frontline staff who will not be vaccinated into backroom roles that do not involve direct patient contact. But the guidance says they do not have to be concerned with finding “suitable alternative employment”, nor will redundancy payments be made to those who are dismissed.

Separate local guidance for GPs suggests creating different entrances and exits for unvaccinated staff to avoid them crossing paths with patients. The advice, from the Cambridgeshire local medical committee, says this would be a “pragmatic” approach.

The NHS guidance says organisations should warn regulators if they identify areas likely to be hit by staffing shortages that could threaten patient safety.

Workers will be asked to show Covid passes to prove they have had their jabs, or for evidence to show that they are exempt.

The Government’s own impact assessment says 73,000 NHS staff in England could be lost because of the rules. There are currently vacancies for almost 100,000 NHS jobs, including 40,000 nursing posts.

Last week Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, told the Commons the Government remained committed to plans to introduce compulsory jabs for all NHS frontline staff from April.

He said those who failed to get vaccinated were “standing on the shoulders” of others who had taken steps to help protect the population, adding that, since consultation began, take-up of jabs by NHS workers had risen from 92 to 94 per cent.

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Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said it was “concerning” that significant numbers of patient-facing staff remained unjabbed as Feb 3 approached.

She said: “Trust leaders have consistently warned that the potential loss of staff who decide not to be vaccinated at a time when the service is under huge operational pressure and already grappling with nearly 100,000 vacancies is the main risk from this policy.”

Ms Cordery said she did not believe a delay to implementing the rules was the answer, but said action must be taken to avoid safety risks to patients.

“Trust leaders will continue to do everything they can to support vaccine-hesitant staff while managing the significant risks presented by this policy in the coming weeks,” she added.

“But the mandatory vaccination policy and the consequences of staff not being fully vaccinated by the April 1 deadline are clear. No trust leader remotely relishes the prospect of dismissing their staff, but they are obliged to implement the law.”

Last week, both the RCN and the RCM called for a delay. The RCN said the rules would be “an act of self-sabotage” as the NHS faces major staff shortages, while the RCM said they could have a “catastrophic” impact on maternity services.

Prof Stephen Powis, the NHS England national medical director said: “The NHS has always been clear that the life-saving Covid vaccination is the best protection against the virus and, while it is currently a recommendation for health and care staff to be vaccinated, it will soon become a legal requirement.

“The overwhelming majority of staff in NHS organisations, nine in 10, have already had their second jab, and NHS employers will continue to support and encourage staff who have not yet been vaccinated to take up the offer of the first and second doses ahead of April 1, when regulations come into effect.”

Last week, a government study found that two vaccines and a previous infection provide 20 per cent more protection than recovering from the virus alone. The Siren study, led by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and funded by the UK Health Security Agency, aims to understand how long immunity from a prior infection lasts.

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