Northern Ireland news


Doctor: Patients have right to know health staff's jab status

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

CANCER patients and those in intensive care units should be “reassured” that front-line staff are vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the head of a medics’ trade union.

Dr Tom Black also warned it will be “very difficult” for health trust bosses in Northern Ireland to manage risk in hospitals during unprecedented winter pressures without knowing whether their employees are double-jabbed.

The Derry GP, who chairs the British Medical Association (BMA) in the north, said that although his union is against mandatory vaccination, he would “not be surprised” if “over time” those involved in critical care and surgery had to confirm their status – but he stressed that the onus is on employers to access this information.

Vaccination is not compulsory for health-care professionals in the north. The issue is being considered in England where 100,000 NHS workers are not inoculated.

Last month The Irish News revealed as few as 60 per cent of nurses in the Belfast trust were vaccinated by late June at a time when 80 per cent of the population had received their first dose.

The trust said the figures were incomplete because some staff may have been jabbed elsewhere – although no data exists on the numbers. Dr Black, pictured, said BMA research showed uptake rates among doctors are extremely high, at around 98 per cent.

But he accepted that patients had a right to know whether those treating them were protected against the virus. “We’re very clear on this as the BMA. Any patient going into hospital should be reassured that all staff dealing with them have had double vaccines. I think that’s a reasonable ask,” he said.

“However, I think bringing in a mandatory requirement in November, coming into probably the worst winter the health service has ever had, will be a ill-judged move.

“But it would not surprise me if over time we reached the position where for example if you’re going to do surgery you need a vaccine.”

Asked whether health trust managers should follow the lead of a private Belfast hospital which will employs only vaccinated staff, Dr Black replied: “I think you’d find it very difficult to run a risk management system within hospitals particularly [without knowing the vaccination status of staff]. “In the first instance they should look at those patients with the greatest risk. So on the cancer wards, where patients have immune suppression, then that’s the sort of high priority you should have. “Also, on intensive-care units and Covid wards, as you don’t want the infection to spread."

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Northern Ireland news