Many a politician has quoted the line ‘a week in politics can be a long time’. This is certainly the case judged by the actions of the health secretary Sajid Javid in the past week.
Only last week Javid was at great pains to point out the responsibilities of NHS staff to get vaccinated.
Professional duty of NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid
Speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee, Sajid Javid reiterated his commitment to the policy of mandatory vaccination in England.
NHS staff must have a first jab by 3 February and be fully vaccinated by 1 April to continue in front-line roles.
This came at a time when some within the health service were calling for the policy of mandatory vaccination to be rethought.
Mr Javid said: "Regardless of the mandate for NHS workers, it is the professional duty of every NHS worker to get vaccinated."
And there had been a good response to the policy, with about 100,000 workers coming forward to be jabbed since the policy was announced.
Latest figures show nearly 95% of staff at NHS trusts have been jabbed.
That left about 77,000 who had not, Mr Javid said, but not all those were in patient-facing roles.
And NHS trusts were now looking at who had not been vaccinated and how that could be managed. "It's reasonable to assume that not everyone, ultimately, is going to come forward," he added.
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The Royal College of GPs has said the deadline should be delayed to allow the move to be rethought, adding mandatory vaccination "was not the right way forward".
NHS workers who oppose the government's mandatory-vaccination policy staged a protest in central London at the weekend.
Demonstrations were also held in other cities across the UK, including Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.
Scotland and Wales have no proposals to make Covid jabs compulsory for NHS workers or care-home staff, while in Northern Ireland there will be a public consultation.
U Turn We now learn from a report in The Telegraph that Mr Javid will meet ministers before confirming the U-turn, The Telegraph reports.
What has brought about the change
The decision it is claimed is lessons learn about the Omicron variant - which is generally much milder than previous ones - as well as warnings that the workforce could lose 80,000 members, a potentially crippling loss for an already strained health service.
I don’t buy the Omicron variant as a major factor in the decision. It can certainly be seen as a contributory factor, but the main reason is a political one. Can you imagine the public outcry and damage to the Government if 80000 NHS staff were to lose their jobs.
Good news for social care
It is estimated that the mandatory vaccine mandate for care home staff that came into effect in November cost 40,00 people their jobs. If the policy was scrapped, they would be able to return.
This week I believe we have learnt two things. Firstly, a week in politics can see a major u turn in Government policy that cost thousands of social care jobs and secondly, the power of the NHS.
The Omicron variant as we know is not as severe as previous variants but whose to say that a more serious variant will not raise its head in the future. Will we then have to reconsider covid vaccination policy at that time.
The Government faced with NHS staff demonstrations and the potential outcry that will result at the loss of 80000 staff have made a politically expedient decision, reaffirming the power of the NHS in British politics. On the plus side if the change in policy is confirmed those people who lost their jobs because of the vaccination policy will be able to return.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy