The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has welcomed the Government’s suspension, subject to consultation of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for frontline NHS staff in England but warns it has come at a further cost of broken trust among midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs).

The RCM has always advocated strongly for its members to take up the COVID vaccine but opposes the Government’s policy on mandatory vaccination.  Earlier this month the RCM along with other health unions called for a delay to the policy, citing the ‘catastrophic’ impact it could have on maternity services already in the grip of serious staffing shortages.

Jon Skewes, Executive Director for External Relations at the RCM, said: “Mandatory COVID vaccination was always a wrongheaded policy and it’s disappointing that it’s taken the Government until the eleventh hour to put the brakes on. While we welcome today’s decision to go out again to consultation, it will do nothing to undo the further damage to trust in this Government among NHS staff, including midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs).

I fear that some midwives, MSWs and other staff may already have left because of this policy. We need to see action to encourage their return to the NHS as quickly as possible.”

The RCM supports vaccination against the virus and has been encouraging its members to have the jab. However, it has opposed the Government’s policy on mandatory vaccination since its announcement. Earlier this month the RCM along with other health unions called for a delay to the policy, citing the ‘catastrophic’ impact on already serious staffing shortages it could have.

Jon Skewes added, “Now this welcome decision has been made we need to focus on encouraging unvaccinated staff to have the jab through support, discussion and engagement; the methods we and others have advocated from the start. Investing in maternity services needs to go beyond supporting existing staff to get the jab, though. We need to see the real terms investment that has been sadly lacking for far too long. From pay to premises, this investment is long overdue.”

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