‘It’s a personal choice’: South London nurse says NHS staff shouldn’t be forced to get vaccinated

London has the highest number of unvaccinated NHS staff in England, according to health service figures.

A south London nurse has said that NHS staff shouldn’t be forced into getting the Covid vaccine because it is a “personal choice”.

Although Patrick O’Shea has been vaccinated himself, he doesn’t believe it should be a requirement to work in the health service.

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“It’s personal choice, and I don’t think that should justify any of these individuals not being able to work,” the 35-year-old said.

Mr O’Shea, who works as a nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said he isn’t worried about working with unvaccinated staff.

“You wouldn’t put yourself around someone and put someone else in danger if you had symptoms or anything like that.”

Mr O’Shea, who works as a nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said he isn’t worried about working with unvaccinated staff. Credit: LocalTV

He said he knows of colleagues who feel “unsure about the vaccine”.

“It’s a personal choice at the end of the day,” he said.

“It isn’t that they don’t want to keep doing their job.

“A lot of these individuals have had Covid, they’ve had severe Covid, and they think that they’re immune.”

The nurse said that he thought more education was needed to encourage more people to take the vaccine.

“Personally, I think we all want to know what is inside something, and I don’t think that has been explained properly for some people,” Mr O’Shea, of East Dulwich, Southwark, said.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid

“For other people, maybe they need some people need more education on what’s inside and the effects on them.

“It’s the same as taking any oral medication.”

The British Medical Association said that patients should be expected to be treated by someone who has been vaccinated.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chairman, described NHS staff vaccine take up as “high” and said: “Patients should feel safe and many understandably expect to be looked after by someone who has been vaccinated.

“However, there is an important distinction between believing every healthcare worker should be vaccinated and advocating mandatory vaccinations for all NHS staff.”

When annoucing the policy to MPs, the health secretary said: “Allow me to be clear that no-one in the NHS or care that is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled out or shamed. That would be totally unacceptable.

“This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, to protect their colleagues. And of course to protect themselves.

“The take-up throughout the NHS in England is 93% of the first dose, 90% of two doses, and that does leave – the latest number I have – 103,000 people in the NHS, that work for the NHS, that are unvaccinated, so not even one jab. It’s hard to know what portion of that number will take up the offer of vaccination.

“If we look at what has happened with social care – care homes – since that policy was announced, there was a significant fall in the equivalent number and I think we can certainly expect that here.”

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said he believes that if the rule is approached in England in the right way, it could help to boost vaccine take-up.

Mr Hopson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you look at other nations that have done this, there is no doubt that if you do it carefully, at the point when you announce the fact that you are going to have mandatory vaccinations in the sector, it does provide quite a useful opportunity to then have those kind of further conversations.

“So, if we get it right, actually, it could be quite a useful spur in some senses to drive the take-up up, but the bit that we just need to be careful of, as I said, is avoiding scapegoating people.

“The problem for both social care and the NHS is we run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins. Both of us have got around 90 to 100,000 vacancies.

“We are completely reliant on our staff to … work extra shifts in order to do the work that needs to be done.

“So losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressure that both of the systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem.

“And that’s why we’re very clear with the Government they need to help us manage this risk.”