Northern Ireland news

Up-to-date data on NHS staff Covid vaccine uptake in Northern Ireland 'not captured' by health chiefs

A Freedom of Information request has confirmed that as few as six out of ten nurses in the Belfast trust were vaccinated at its own site by late June
Seanín Graham

HEALTH chiefs have admitted there is no up-to-date information on Covid vaccine uptake among NHS staff - after it emerged as few as 60 per cent of nurses were jabbed in the Belfast trust by June.

In a statement, the Department of Health confirmed a regional 'vaccine management system' used by people to book was "not designed" to code health professionals.

Instead, the department said a new system for booster jabs will record "more detailed data relating to staff take-up" over coming months.

Earlier this week, The Irish News revealed through a Freedom of Information request a major disparity in uptake rates among staff in the Belfast trust - from 94 per cent for doctors for their first dose to 60 per cent for nurses being double jabbed - which one public health expert described as "extremely worrying".

The FoI response gave a breakdown across professional groups since last December - when frontline NHS workers were among the first group to be offered the Pfizer jab on the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) site - and June 26, when the RVH vaccination centre no longer jabbed "staff only" and opened its doors to the public.

The trust however said the figures were incomplete because some staff may have been vaccinated elsewhere, although it couldn't provide numbers.

When asked to disclose the current position yesterday, a Belfast trust spokesman said this data was contained in 'the vaccine management system' which is "not accessible to us".

"Therefore, the actual number of total staff vaccinated is higher than the figures quoted in our recent Freedom of Information response," he added.

But a member of the Stormont Health Committee last night raised concerns about the lack of information and called on the department to provide regular updates.

"I have been concerned for some time at the relatively low level of take-up of the vaccine among lower age groups, not least because they are so widely represented in health and social care," Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said.

"Although we recognise there is high turnover among health and social care staff, we would also encourage the department to publish updates on vaccine uptake among health and social care workers, as a clear matter of public interest, and to continue to offer vaccines at HSC workplaces."

In a statement, a department spokeswoman confirmed they could not publish such updates as information is not currently recorded in that format.

"The vaccine management system was not designed to capture full take up data for HSC staff," she said.

"Its principal roles have been as a booking system and personal vaccination record, as well as providing the provincewide population data published in the daily dashboard.

"The system for booster jabs will record more detailed data relating to staff take-up."

In England, a consultation has been launched on mandatory vaccination of healthcare staff, a move supported by Professor Gabriel Scally, who insisted there was a "a very strong professional duty on healthcare staff to be fully vaccinated in order to protect their patients".

The Irish News yesterday reported that the private Kingsbridge hospital in Belfast had achieved 100 per cent compliance among staff after introducing mandatory vaccination in May.

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