The government has halted controversial plans for the compulsory Covid vaccination of all frontline NHS and social care workers in England, just days ahead of the first jab deadline. Addressing the House of Commons, the health secretary said the government was “looking again” at scrapping the measure in a bid to avoid a damaging confrontation with NHS workers in England. In a U-turn, Sajid Javid said a consultation on ending compulsory vaccinations in health and social care settings will be launched. He has abandoned his requirement that all health workers be vaccinated.

Under a law passed in December last year, every NHS and care worker that has contact with patients had to be double jabbed by April—or face the sack.

Health bosses warned last weekend that so many staff were going to be sacked that services, including maternity wards, would be unsafe.

The Tories forced similar measures on social care in November last year, leading to an exodus of around 40,000 staff. One care charity yesterday accused the government of using the sector as “the trial run for the NHS”. The government relaxed migration rules for care workers, care assistants and home care workers, who have been added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list. Patrick Harrington commented:

“This was a problem of the Government’s own making. The supposedly “tough on immigration” Tories once again turn to recruiting overseas rather than deal properly with problems at home. A major reason for staff leaving the care sector was the Tory insistence on mandatory vaccination. Coupled with generally poor working conditions and pay enough was enough for many.”

Unions, including Solidarity, opposed the mandatory vaccination policy. Put simply there was no need for compulsion, and we believe people should have the right to choose. Solidarity was gearing up for a fight on this issue as some of our members would have been dismissed. That will not now be necessary as the unions and all those who opposed mandatory vaccines have won! Our union is still involved, however, in cases involving risk assessments and PPE. We also want to see care workers who have left their jobs attracted back by improved pay and conditions. We want an end to the pandemic panic So while the battle for fairness and common-sense continues we can chalk up one victory.

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