Patients in 'jeopardy' as Suffolk hospitals set for staff loss over jabs

Ipswich Hospital/Colchester Hospital/West Suffolk Hospital. Picture: Archant

In less than a month's time, on February 3, all frontline staff will need to have at least their first dose if they are to meet the government's April 1 deadline to be double vaccinated. - Credit: Archant

Patient services at Suffolk hospitals are in "jeopardy", unions have warned, as hundreds of staff may have to leave over not getting double jabbed. 

In two weeks' time, on February 3, all frontline staff will need to have at least their first dose if they are to meet the government's April 1 deadline to be double vaccinated. 

And with a total of 596 staff at Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals out of 11,016 staff not double jabbed as of December 31, unions have warned this could impact care. 

There are 235 staff not fully vaccinated at West Suffolk Hospital out of 5,416 NHS workers. 

ESNEFT - which runs Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals - disputed these figures claiming it has contacted 285 colleagues out of its 11,500 workforce so vaccination records can be updated. 

This is coupled, UNISON and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) say, with NHS staff absences related to Covid. 

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Cheryl Godber said: “The vaccine mandate is a headache the NHS just doesn't need. 

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“Suffolk trusts are already short on staff but they will have no option but to comply with the law. Managers will have to let experienced people go, putting the running of safe services in jeopardy."

Ms Godber urged the government to put its plan "on hold" so NHS staff can be "persuaded" to get jabbed.

Dee Holbrook, RCN senior officer for Suffolk, Norfolk and North East Essex, agreed and added: "We’re concerned about the impact of the new law as high levels of staff absence due to Covid-19 are already leaving services so stretched that patient safety is at risk.

"Encouraging people to get vaccinated is the best way to boost vaccine take-up.”

A spokeswoman for WSFT said Covid-19 vaccines offer "the best protection" for the trust's mostly vaccinated staff. 

She added: "We are continuing to support and encourage staff who have not yet been vaccinated to take up the offer."

Kate Read, director of people and organisational development at ESNEFT, said 93% are fully vaccinated but claimed there could be more as staff could have been vaccinated elsewhere or off work.  

She said: “Managers are also holding supportive one to one conversations with their staff to understand where colleagues may be exempt on health grounds, or why staff may not wish to have the vaccine, to enable them to make an informed decision.”

Vaccine take-up among NHS staff is far higher than the general population with 95.15% having both jabs compared to 81.4% of Suffolk residents , according to the latest figures.