Northern Ireland news

Robin Swann 'not comfortable' with patients asking about vaccine status of frontline staff

Health Minister Robin Swann
Seanín Graham

HEALTH minister Robin Swann has urged all unvaccinated frontline staff to get jabbed "without delay" - but said he is "would not be comfortable" with patients asking about the Covid vaccine status of those treating them.

Mr Swann was reacting to comments made by British Medical Association (BMA) chief Dr Tom Black in yesterday's Irish News, who said vulnerable patients including those suffering from cancer had a right to know if health professionals were inoculated.

Despite supporting the creation of a vaccine certification scheme for potential use amid concern about soaring infection rates in the north, Mr Swann indicated to assembly colleagues that he was not in favour of healthcare workers showing proof they were fully protected against the virus.

"It's not something I was aware of... and not something I've definitely made a decision on," he said.

He added the issue had not been raised with him by medics or trade unions.

While the BMA is against compulsory vaccination, Dr Black said he "would not be surprised" if "over time" those involved in critical care and surgery had to confirm if they were doubly vaccinated.

But he stressed the onus was on employers to access this information.

Read more: 125 cases of Delta plus variant of Covid-19 detected in Northern Ireland

The BMA head added: "We’re very clear on this. 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."

Vaccination is not compulsory for healthcare professionals in the north, but the issue is currently being considered in England where 100,000 NHS workers are not jabbed.

In September, Mr Swann said he wanted a domestic vaccine certification scheme to be available for use “as soon as necessary”.

On Monday evening, a new app which allows users to show proof of Covid status was launched by the Department of Health to facilitate "voluntary" use of proof in pubs and nightclubs.

Neither Mr Swann nor Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Prof Sir Michael McBride were available for interview yesterday.

When asked by The Irish News if the CMO, as the north's most senior doctor, and Mr Swann believed vulnerable patients undergoing operations were entitled to know if a medic or nurse was vaccinated, the department issued a statement:

"The Department of Health continues to work with HSC employers to maximise uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine amongst health and social care staff.

"We encourage all staff who are not yet vaccinated to do so without delay. Vaccination is the most effective way of stopping the spread of Covid-19 and protecting people against serious illness. We do not want to take a position that might further destabilise our vulnerable staffing position and therefore have currently no plans for a mandatory vaccination programme at this time. This is consistent with the approach in Scotland, Wales and in the ROI."

Read more: 125 cases of Delta plus variant of Covid-19 detected in Northern Ireland

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news