The NHS is going ahead with plans to redeploy or dismiss healthcare workers in England who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which could lead to some staff being shown the door without redundancy pay.
The British Medical Association (BMA) described it as a "very worrying" move, and said the overall strategy risked making staff shortages worse.
The regulations mean that frontline staff, whether in the NHS or independent health sector, must have had at least two vaccine doses no later than April 1, or face the possibility of their contracts being terminated.
The deadline means they must have had a first dose by February 3 to be eligible for a second dose by the deadline.
A letter to health service employers from NHS England & Improvement, sent last Friday, has confirmed implementation of the rules that could lead to some staff having their contracts terminated by the end of March.
Staff Warning in Formal Meetings
An accompanying 24-page document, Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD) for Healthcare Workers , sets out how employees should be encouraged to get vaccinated, and the steps for managing cases of individuals who do not comply.
From February 4, staff who have not had a first vaccine dose, unless exempt, will be invited to a formal meeting with a manager and told the potential consequence may be dismissal "on the grounds of contravention of a statutory restriction".
Exemptions from the VCOD regulations include those who:
Are under the age of 18
Are medically exempt, such as those with severe allergies to vaccines, and certain medical conditions
Have participated in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine
Are pregnant and have a temporary exemption, which will be valid until they are 16 weeks post birth
Having acquired natural immunity through previous SARS-CoV- infection is not listed as an exemption in the regulations.
Managers should consider temporary or permanent redeployment of an unvaccinated member of staff whenever possible, according to the guidance. However, individuals would not be eligible for pay protection of their basic salary or additional earnings if their new role is in a lower band or grade to their previous position.
Alternative options, including "possible adjustments to their current role" and "restrictions to duties", should be explored.
During formal meetings, an individual can be accompanied by a trade union representative or a staff representative.