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Maternity service safety threatened by staff vacancies and mandatory vaccination, warns trust

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A trust has warned it could be forced to restrict maternity services due to a high midwife vacancy rate, and large numbers unvaccinated among the current staff.

The government has mandated that all patient-facing NHS staff must have had two covid vaccination doses from 1 April — meaning they will need to have received their first dose by 3 February. If not, they can be redeployed to non patient-facing roles, or face dismissal.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust’s board heard on Tuesday that the current numbers pose a “significant operational problem” amid efforts to encourage more staff to get both covid jabs before the government’s deadline.

The board meeting was told that, of the trust’s 7,550 staff, approximately 1,300 workers – or 17.4% – do not have a vaccination recorded against them, with the areas of greatest concern being women’s and children’s health, geriatric services, the emergency departments and some clinical support services.

At the board meeting, BHRUHT chief executive Matthew Trainer said: “The vacancy rate, plus the unvaccinated rate, would put us in quite a serious position.

“At the minute, for example, the Queen’s Birth Centre [at Queen’s Hospital in Romford, east London], I don’t think, has been open since I got here. I couldn’t see any circumstances in which it would reopen if we lost another chunk of midwives, for the foreseeable future certainly, in terms of vaccination.

“I think it would leave us in a position where we’d have to look at constraining services and focusing in on core [services], establishment being focused on the labour ward, looking at complex births and making sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to manage it as safely as possible.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 12 January 2022

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