NHS workers in England must be legally required to get Covid vaccinations before the winter, Matt Hancock has said, in his first intervention since leaving government.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Hancock, who resigned as health secretary in June after it emerged he had breached Covid-19 social distancing restrictions with Gina Coladangelo, an adviser with whom he was having an affair, warned ministers against delaying mandatory jabs for nurses and doctors.

Hancock’s comments come as the chief executive of NHS England said the country faced “a difficult winter”, with hospital Covid admissions 14 times higher than they were this time last year.

It has been reported that the government is expected to say the law will not be changed to require Covid jabs for the NHS’s 1.45 million staff in England until spring 2022.

The law has already been changed to make Covid jabs mandatory for care workers in England, with the requirement to come into effect on Thursday.

Hancock said: “Having looked at all the evidence, I am convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS, and get it in place as fast as possible … So, as we prepare to face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools that we have to save lives.”

He argued compulsory vaccination for health staff in France proved the policy could work, with the proportion of vaccinated healthcare workers rising from two-thirds to 99% after the requirement was introduced.

Matt Hancock.
Matt Hancock: ‘The logic is crystal clear.’ Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Hancock said: “To me, the logic is crystal clear. Medicine is founded on science, and the science of the Covid vaccine is comprehensively proven. Mandating the use of the best science isn’t controversial: it’s common sense.

“There are some people who say this isn’t the way we do things in Britain. But we already mandate vaccination against hepatitis B for doctors. The British historic precedents for compulsory vaccination go back to the 1850s.” He added that getting vaccinated was a “moral duty”.

Amanda Pritchard, the head of NHS England, told Sky News on Monday: “We have had 14 times the number of people in hospital with Covid than we saw this time last year and we have also had a record number of A&E attendances and indeed a record number of 999 calls.

“So as we look into winter, we’re very clear this is going to be a difficult winter and the things we would encourage people to do is anything they can do to protect themselves, so that’s the Covid vaccine, it’s the flu vaccination in particular.”

NHS industry bodies and Labour frontbenchers have warned that legally requiring staff to take the vaccine in the run-up to winter could risk loss of NHS staff at a critical time.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said if the policy was wrongly adopted then “we risk a significant loss of a significant number of staff”.

Hancock was health secretary for three years, playing a key role in the UK government’s response to the pandemic.

There have been 141,805 deaths within 28 days of a positive tests reported by the Department of Health and Social Care since the crisis began in early 2020.

NHS workers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the respective devolved administrations.

The latest figures show 79.7% of people aged 12 and over have had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Military will help distribute Covid-19 vaccine, says Hancock
Health secretary tells Tory conference a vaccine is the ‘great hope’ as he hails Covid app

Alexandra Topping and Lisa O'Carroll

04, Oct, 2020 @6:01 PM

Article image
Covid vaccine take-up lower among health workers, says Hancock
The health secretary said 80% of NHS staff received jabs, compared with 90% of those in top four age groups

Peter Walker Political correspondent

15, Feb, 2021 @9:48 AM

Article image
Covid vaccine could be ready for rollout next month, says Hancock
Health secretary says NHS is preparing for mass rollout but stresses ‘we’re not there yet’

Simon Murphy Political correspondent

10, Nov, 2020 @10:07 AM

Article image
Care home staff could be required to have Covid vaccine, says Matt Hancock
Health secretary announces consultation, but operators fear it could worsen staff shortages

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

14, Apr, 2021 @3:07 PM

Article image
Fully vaccinated people in England may not need to isolate, Hancock says
Health secretary looking to drop 10-day ‘stay at home’ order for those in close contact with person infected with Covid

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

21, Jun, 2021 @11:57 AM

Article image
Unions urge Sunak to reconsider 1% pay rise for NHS England staff
BMA, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and Unison say pay recommendation ‘fails the test of honesty’

Nadeem Badshah

06, Mar, 2021 @10:29 AM

Article image
India variant will be dominant UK Covid strain ‘in next few days’
Scientists’ warning comes as government comes under pressure to explain border policy

Peter Walker, Nicola Davis and Jessica Elgot

17, May, 2021 @6:59 PM

Article image
Covid vaccine dip spotlights tensions between Matt Hancock and NHS
Analysis: was NHS England letter deliberately leaked just before health secretary’s press conference?

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

18, Mar, 2021 @12:20 PM

Article image
NHS staff need access to mental health services, says Labour
Health and care staff breaking down during coronavirus crisis, says Dr Rosena Allin-Khan

Hannah Devlin

01, May, 2020 @1:49 PM

Article image
Give NHS staff Covid vaccine now or face growing winter crisis, say hospital bosses
Trust chiefs say making frontline workers wait until early 2021 is ‘kick in the teeth’

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

18, Dec, 2020 @6:07 PM