Non-NHS nursing staff ‘left behind in vaccine rollout’ – RCN

Of nursing staff who have not received a coronavirus vaccine, 70% work in non-NHS settings, the Royal College of Nursing found.

A dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is prepared, at Copes Pharmacy and Travel Clinic in Streatham, south London. (Yui Mok/PA)
A dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is prepared, at Copes Pharmacy and Travel Clinic in Streatham, south London. (Yui Mok/PA)

Nursing staff who do not work directly for the NHS are being left behind in the vaccination programme, according to a survey.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found 85% of 24,370 nursing staff members polled between January 29 and February 2 had received a coronavirus vaccine.

Of the 15% who had not, 70% work in non-NHS settings – either in local communities, social care settings such as care homes, or employed by agencies.

And of the nursing staff who had not received a vaccine, 55% had not been offered it – around 8% of all respondents.

Overall, 35% of agency workers and 19% of temporary staff had not been offered a vaccine yet, compared to 6% of permanent staff.

The Government is aiming to have offered a vaccine to everyone in the top four priority groups, which includes all health and care staff, by February 15.

With the deadline nearing, the RCN called on the Government to redouble its efforts to reach those working outside the NHS and in agency or temporary roles.

The survey found 71% of non-NHS staff had received at least one vaccine, compared to 91% of nursing staff working in the NHS.

Almost a fifth (19%) of 1,817 nursing staff in care homes had not received a vaccine.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of those who worked outside the NHS and had not received a vaccine had also not yet been offered one.

This compares to 35% of the NHS staff who had not received a vaccine.

Some 80% of agency staff, 70% of temporary staff and 66% of bank staff who had not received a vaccine had also not been offered a jab.

This compares to 47% of the permanent staff who had not received a vaccine.

Overall, 7% of nursing staff had been offered a vaccine but had not received one.

Asked why, 38% said they did not want to have the vaccine right now or were undecided, 33% said they had a vaccination scheduled and 13% said they had been unable to attend an appointment.

One in eight said they did not want to have the vaccine at all, and 4% said there were not enough doses available when they went to get it.

Four per cent of the respondents said they were choosing not to have the vaccine or had been advised against having it.

Some of the main reasons included concerns the vaccine is unsafe, about potential side effects, its effectiveness against all strains of the virus and not having enough information about the jab.

Before approval, the vaccines underwent a rigorous testing process to pass standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Reports of serious side-effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare, and no long-term complications have been reported, the NHS says.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Temporary and agency staff work in our communities and hospitals, with patients and the public – and they face the same level of risk as their NHS colleagues.

“Every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure the protection of patients and vulnerable people.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance is clear that the Covid-19 vaccine should be available to all health and social care staff.

“This is irrespective of where they are employed, including agency staff and those employed in the independent sectors.

“Employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring all their staff are able to access the vaccine. But the Government must intervene now, as our members have proven this is clearly not the case.”

Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said: “It is worrying to note that staff working with vulnerable people in social care settings are in this invidious position.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “Ease of access to the Covid-19 vaccine is essential for all who work on the front line including nurses working in the adult social care sector.

“For example, GPs entering care homes to vaccine residents could offer all staff the vaccine at the same time rather than them having to go to vaccine hubs.

“Staff are our biggest asset and we need to ensure that they are all looked after well and given the same opportunities, including the vaccine, as our colleagues in the NHS.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are following advice from the independent JCVI to first vaccinate people deemed most at risk of coronavirus, along with our heroic health and social care staff on the frontline.

“This includes temporary, agency and voluntary workers who are at an increased risk of contracting or transmitting the virus to other people particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, as well as to other staff in a healthcare environment.

“The NHS is working at pace to vaccinate these groups and we are on track to offer a vaccination to everyone in these first four priority groups by mid-February.”

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