Agency nurses ‘left behind’ in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Vaccines should be offered to all health and social care workers irrespective of their employment status. 

James McKay
9 February 2021
Nurse preparing IV for a patient in intensive care

Only around 1% of respondents said they did not want the new COVID-19 vaccine.

Agency and bank nursing staff are not being offered the COVID-19 vaccine at the same rate as their NHS counterparts, according to new data.

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The news comes despite instructions from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that vaccines should be offered to all health and social care workers irrespective of their employment status.

A survey of 24,370 healthcare workers undertaken by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) shows that more than two in five agency nursing staff and one in four temporary staff had not even received a single dose of the vaccine.

In stark contrast, just one in eight hospital workers are still yet to receive their first dose.  Only around 1% of respondents said they did not want the COVID-19 vaccine.

A separate survey undertaken by NursingNotes last year shows that the number of agency and bank workers from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities remains disproportionally high. Around 49% of BAME nursing staff said agency or locum work was their primary employment, compared to just 14% of their white counterparts.

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Being left behind.

As the government’s target date of having all frontline health and care staff vaccinated by 15 February fast approaches, the RCN is now calling on the government to redouble its efforts to reach agency and temporary nursing staff who are being left behind in the vaccination programme.

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Temporary and agency staff work in our communities and hospitals, with patients and the public – and they face the same level of risk as their NHS colleagues.

“Every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure the protection of patients and vulnerable people.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance is clear that the COVID-19 vaccine should be available to all health and social care staff. This is irrespective of where they are employed, including agency staff and those employed in the independent sectors.

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“Employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring all their staff are able to access the vaccine. But the government must intervene now, as our members have proven this is clearly not the case.”

The union has said it will continue to monitor the situation closely.

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