DR MAX PEMBERTON: Dear NHS colleagues, have the jab or lose your job!

DR MAX PEMBERTON: Dear NHS colleagues, have the jab or lose your job!

  • Around 10 per cent of workers in hospitals and care homes reluctant to get jabs
  • Dr Max says actively failing to keep patients safe as possible is gross misconduct
  • Doesn’t see moral reasons it shouldn’t be condition of job to have vaccine 

A friend of mine is a cleaner at the hospital where I work. He has one of the most physically demanding jobs in the NHS: keeping the wards scrubbed and free from lurking bugs is a never-ending task and, frequently, a thankless one.

I have never heard him complain. But fear of Covid-19, he told me, has been keeping him awake at night. ‘I have been living in terror,’ he admitted. He lives with his wife, their two small children and his parents in a small flat. For the past year, he has been so afraid of bringing the virus home from work with him that at the end of every shift he undresses on his doorstep.

Then he goes indoors, puts his clothes into the washing machine and takes a shower.

‘The vaccine changed my life more than you can imagine,’ he told me. ‘For a year, I have been petrified. The idea of passing Covid to my parents is unbearable — I could never forgive myself. But I love my job, and know what I do is important. Thank god for the vaccine!’

My friend and his parents are immigrants from Africa. There’s a popular misconception that most black and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in the NHS don’t want to take up the vaccine, and that simply isn’t true. Most are enthusiastic about it.

Around 10 per cent of workers in hospitals and care homes reluctant to get jabs (pictured: Doctor Kate Martin, left, administers a vaccine to a patient in Sheffield last month) 

But, as the Mail revealed last week, there is a substantial minority of workers across the NHS who are ‘vaccine-hesitant’. About 10 per cent of workers, in hospitals and care homes, are reluctant to get their jabs.

That is about 130,000 NHS workers who think they can do their job without having the vaccine. We have to make it clear that this is not the case.

To put it as bluntly as I can: actively failing to keep patients as safe as possible is gross misconduct. It cannot be tolerated.

The Government’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is right to say NHS staff have a duty to be vaccinated unless they have a valid clinical reason not to do so. And it is right for the Cabinet to be considering legal changes to enforce this.

I don’t believe there are any legitimate moral reasons why it should not be a condition of employment to have the vaccine. Get the jab or lose your job.

I do not say this to impose my rules on other people. I’m a libertarian at heart and I don’t like telling people what to do.

As a doctor, my role is usually advisory. I tell patients: ‘Don’t smoke. Keep your alcohol consumption within safe limits.’ But these are recommendations. If you want to smoke three packets a day, it’s your funeral. You have the right to choose.

But if you refuse to have a vaccine, and risk taking coronavirus into a hospital or care home, that’s different. Patients don’t have a say on whether their carers are vaccinated, but they have a right to be kept as safe as possible.

Dr Max (pictured) says actively failing to keep patients safe as possible is gross misconduct and that he doesn’t believe there are any legitimate moral reasons why it should not be a condition of employment to have the vaccine

That applies to staff too. If 10 per cent of the team decide they don’t want to play by the rules, that affects the other 90 per cent. I don’t see why some staff should fill in for colleagues who can’t carry out duties because they are ‘vaccine hesitant’.

Any reluctance among NHS staff to have the jab surprises me. I don’t think I’ve spoken to one doctor or nurse who has reservations. But I am aware of an age divide: people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and who remember the illness inflicted by polio and measles, tend to be strongly in favour of jabs.

Vaccine-hesitancy is a luxury of the younger generations who never saw the misery those diseases spread, and who are the least likely to be seriously affected by Covid-19. It is the young, too, who are most susceptible to fake news on social media. Full data about which NHS staff are declining the vaccine hasn’t been published, but I suspect it will be younger people without a science background.

To combat this, the Government must issue clear messages about how safe and effective the vaccines are. This is key among communities that have reason to mistrust authority figures.

It’s crucial to get the message across, not least because so many of the victims in the first wave were front-line NHS workers from ethnic communities.

But that doesn’t mean we should make exceptions based on ethnicity. The vaccine has to be a requirement for working in healthcare — just like PPE.

Why should this be controversial? If you want to drive a lorry for a living, you need an HGV licence — no exceptions. And, if you want to be a front-line medical worker, you have to produce documents to show immunity against TB and measles.

Even for medical training it’s a basic condition. Before they can start, college students need to produce a certificate of vaccination against hepatitis B. Without it, they won’t be admitted.

I almost fell foul of that regulation. A few weeks before I was due to enrol, I was phoning GPs, trying to get the jab. And the TB requirement has been the bane of my professional life, as I have genetic immunity. I was born with TB protection, so never had the vaccine — something I’ve had to explain to employers.

For any doctor, these regulations are second nature. It is a basic condition of employment to have the appropriate vaccines — and to suggest this is an infringement of anyone’s human rights is ridiculous.

There has been discussion around the loneliness older people have experienced in lockdown. But I’ve noticed in my clinic those who appear to be struggling most are men in their 30s and 40s. Middle-aged men often rely on work for a social life. Many have told me they feel lost and alone.

Social media means we are more connected than ever and Dr Max says it’s better to keep divorces off of social media. Actress Alice Evans (right) shared on Instagram a news report that her husband Ioan Gruffudd (left) had filed for divorce

Spilling all takes its toll on kids

Social media means we are more connected to one another than ever. It allows us to share whatever we want about our lives — a wonderful warts-and-all of what we’re up to and thinking. It’s not hard to see how this can go wrong. It’s difficult to know where the boundaries are between giving people a glimpse into your life and over-sharing.

This is particularly true when it comes to parents divorcing. It’s far better to keep quiet on social media about relationship woes, yet people seem to fall foul of this rule. Actress Alice Evans shared on Instagram a news report that her husband Ioan Gruffudd had filed for divorce, with the caption: ‘Oh. OK. Thanks for letting me know. I guess?’ followed by a teary-eyed emoji.

There’s no doubt that this is very sad and she must be in pain. But sometimes that pain blinds us. By all means get angry, cry and vent with selected friends or family, but on social media, silence is best. Especially if you’re a parent. I’ve seen first-hand the toll divorce can take on children.

A study by the World Obesity Federation found that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from Covid occurred in countries with high levels of obesity. Overall, death rates were ten times higher in countries where more than half the population was overweight. Britain had the third highest death rate in the world and the fourth highest obesity rate. Can we address the elephant in the room? We need to lose weight. The Government made mistakes but we must accept that our refusal to address the obesity crisis — often for fear of offending — has, according to this study, been the biggest factor in our death rates. 

DR MAX PRESCRIBES: FIVE-A-DAY COOKBOOK

We ALL know we should be eating more fruit and veg, but it’s sometimes tricky to get your five a day, especially if, like me, you’re not the best cook. The idea behind Dr Rupy Aujla’s latest book is that all the recipes have three portions of fruit and veg, serving two people, using one pan. They are super easy (even I can do them), tasty and healthy — and there’s minimal washing-up!

Dr Rupy Aujla’s new book features recipes which contain three portions of fruit or veg, serve two people and can be done with just one pan, which makes the dishes super easy

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