Thousands of unvaccinated GP staff face dismissal notice from February

Thousands of unvaccinated staff at GP practices could be handed their notice from 4 February, NHS guidance suggests.

Syringe extracting COVID-19 vaccine from vial
COVID-19 vaccination (Photo: Evgeniya Matveets/Getty Images)

The document, which outlines ‘phase two’ of the government’s mandatory vaccination plan for the NHS, states that ‘employers can issue staff with contractual notice of dismissal’ from 4 February while they ‘explore redeployment options’.

Staff notice periods and the search for alternative roles can run concurrently, the guidance says, but ‘every effort’ should be made to redeploy staff within the notice period ‘up to and including their last date of service’.

Those who are dismissed will not be entitled to redundancy entitlements, including contractual or statutory payments - and employers will not have to help staff with finding suitable alternative employment.

Vaccine mandate

GPonline analysis of official estimates suggest that as many as 9,000 staff could be issued with their notice as soon as next month and could be lost from the workforce entirely from 1 April - stripping more than one team member from each practice on average.

Practices are asked to identify potential workforce capacity and service provision issues in the guidance, and must notify the CQC if they will be unable to continue delivering services safely. NHS England has developed a solution to identify unvaccinated staff.

The government announced on 9 November last year that all frontline NHS staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 1 April 2022 to continue in their posts, including non-clinical workers not directly involved in patient care.

A 12-week grace period, which began on 6 January, allows unvaccinated people until 3 February 2022 to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, in time to receive their second dose by the 1 April 2022 deadline and comply with the mandate.

GP practice staff

During this grace period providers are recommended to hold a formal review process with unvaccinated staff to ‘clearly explain’ the consequences of remaining unvaccinated, to clarify the dates by which they would have to be vaccinated. Alternative options, such as redeployment should also be explored in this period.

Practices will be able to view the vaccination status of staff who are on the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) system after NHS England worked on a solution to ‘lessen the burden’ on employers to identify which individuals do not meet the requirements.

Those who remain unvaccinated by 4 February - except those who are exempt - will be invited to a formal meeting with a manager, in which they will be notified that a potential outcome of the meeting may be dismissal. Notice periods should not end until 31 March.

GP employers are encouraged to engage and work with their trade union or staff side representatives, regarding the formal measures being taken in the redeployment processes and potential dismissals of staff due to vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD).

GP leaders have warned that the move to introduce mandatory COVID vaccinations is particularly concerning at a time when general practice needed as many people as possible in posts. BMA polling suggests the vast amount of GPs are already double-vaccinated.

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