PM Challenged Over Mandatory Jabs for Health Workers as He Announces an End to Plan B

Peter Russell

January 19, 2022

Boris Johnson has rejected a call to abandon plans for mandatory COVID vaccination for frontline healthcare workers in England, that could lead to redundancy for those failing to comply with the rules.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons it was the "professional responsibility" of NHS staff to get vaccinated.

COVID Restrictions Eased but Self-isolation Rules Stay – For Now

The comments came as Mr Johnson announced that many COVID restrictions in England would be scrapped in the light of latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that showed declining infection levels.

However, the legal requirement for people who test positive for COVID to self-isolate would remain in place for the time being.

The switch from 'Plan B' to 'Plan A' will see an end to the compulsory wearing of face masks in classrooms from tomorrow, with a further announcement on their use in communal areas expected.

From Thursday, January 27, mandatory certification, otherwise known as 'vaccine passports', and the rule requiring people to wear masks in shops and other public spaces, will end.

The Prime Minister also announced that "from now", the Government was no longer asking people to work from home.

A move to ease restrictions on visits to care homes would be set out in the coming days.

Mr Johnson told MPs, "There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate" and that when the regulations expire on March 24, "I very much expect not to renew them". Subject to a vote in the Commons, that date could be brought forward, he added.

Commenting on the loosening of restrictions, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, cautioned that there were "still nearly 20,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital, at a time when the NHS is already at full stretch and contending with the toughest winter on record".

Johnson Challenged Over Mandatory Vaccine Policy for Health Workers

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also warned that today's announcement would "do nothing to relieve the pressure on the NHS".

Pat Cullen, the RCN's general secretary, said: "Time will tell whether dropping other measures when the pressure on health and social care services remains unrelenting was wise – particularly when thousands of unvaccinated nursing staff are facing the sack."

Mr Johnson faced repeated challenges from his own backbenchers, who disagreed that NHS workers in England should be forced to get vaccinated against COVID, or face redeployment or redundancy.

Mark Harper (Con. Forest of Dean) said: "We shouldn’t reward our NHS staff for all their dedication with the sack."

Mr Johnson replied: "We don't want to drive people out of the service, but it is a professional responsibility of everybody looking after the health of others within our NHS to get vaccinated."

Since the vaccination policy was announced, "rates of vaccination within the NHS have gone up, notably, and that's a positive thing", he added.

NHS 'Workforce Crisis'

Jeremy Hunt (Con. South West Surrey), chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said "NHS doctors and nurses are absolutely shattered", as he urged the Prime Minster to address the workforce crisis in health and social care.

"So, if he doesn't want to accept the Select Committee's recommendations to address the workforce crisis, what will he do to give hope to our brilliant frontline staff?”, he asked.

Mr Johnson responded that despite exhaustion, "they're also working heroically and doing an incredible job. "There are now 44,000 more healthcare professionals… than there were in 2020," he said.

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