Responding to today’s announcement of a vaccine mandate for NHS England staff, Dr Katerina Kolyva, Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Deans of Health said:
“The Council of Deans of Health recognises the importance of Covid-19 vaccination and understands the decision to mandate it for staff in NHS England.
Our 100 members educate 175,000 nursing, midwifery and allied health professional students at any given time. Member feedback suggests that vaccination rates are higher among healthcare students than their general cohort equivalents. Nevertheless, there are concerns for the small numbers who remain unvaccinated.
Due to the nature of healthcare courses, student placements in the NHS form an essential part of a student’s education, placing them within the mandate. As this mandate is new, there are concerns that existing students who remain unvaccinated could be left unable to graduate.
Universities need clarity and support on how to approach this challenge. Universities themselves have no authority to mandate but could find themselves facing pushback from students who claim their contract is breached through no fault of the university. This must also be taken into account when assessing universities on student retention and outcomes but more broadly on the issues it could cause for the workforce pipeline, including the 50,000 nurses target.
Implementation of the mandate also poses questions for our members. The responsibility for recording vaccination status, the method to prove it and the implications relying on the NHS England Covid pass may have for international students are all areas we will seek answers on.
Our members have worked throughout the pandemic to support the national effort with many staff and students on the frontline. The benefit of vaccines has been palpable. We now need clarity on how universities should work with this mandate and support on the issues it raises. The Council of Deans of Health looks forward to working closely with government and other key bodies on specific guidance and support for the healthcare higher education sector.”