A union has accused ambulance bosses of telling their staff not to take up an offer of having the coronavirus vaccine at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The GMB shared a Facebook post from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) which said: “We’ve been made aware of an offer of staff to drop in for their covid-19 vaccine at a hospital site in our region.
“We appreciate the offer was made in good faith but we have protocols to follow in this regard.
“We would ask that staff do not do this.
“The trust has been given strict instructions on how our staff can access the vaccine and we will keep staff informed on when and how they can do this as the vaccine programme continues to be rolled out.”
The union said: “To forbid its staff and individuals who have risked their lives all year to save the lives of others from accessing life-saving vaccines from is nothing short of potentially a criminal act.”
The ambulance trust, which serves Brighton and Hove, said that hundreds of staff had already been vaccinated, with priority given to the most clinically vulnerable and those on the front line.
The GMB said that it had been “flooded with complaints” about the way that red tape and the internal politics of the NHS was preventing staff from having the earliest possible protection.
The union added: “The BSUH (Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust) had commenced offering the life-saving vaccines to the ambulance staff this afternoon (Sunday 27 December) rather than see possible hundreds of doses of vaccine go to waste.
“However, Secamb management decided, without consultation, to issue a missive on their own Secamb Facebook community page forbidding ambulance staff from attending on the basis of some bureaucratic rationale.
“They further sent a trust manager to then attend the BSUH to directly instruct the hospital trust not to accept Secamb staff for vaccinations and to make sure staff did not continue to try to access vaccinations.”
Secamb said: “Our vulnerable staff are receiving the vaccine as we continue to work with NHS colleagues in arranging official appointments as per national guidance.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “To be honest, I was so shocked when I first found out about this.
“GMB will be seeking immediate answers to several serious questions and concerns about this blatant abandonment of those in the front line who without question put their lives at risk all year and then who find themselves along with other NHS professionals forbidden to access lifesaving vaccine when available and possibly wasted if not used up.
“It’s nothing short of a criminal act.
“Just two days after Christmas and Secamb staff are already finding themselves once again questioning if their own management have their best interests and welfare at heart.
“The GMB union and its members will be demanding an explanation as a result of this blatant abandonment of its own employees.
“Of course, the obvious first being why would an employer prevent its staff, especially as it is believed that the vaccines supply was in fact surplus for the day and therefore staff were being asked if they wanted to be vaccinated to prevent wasting a number of doses, why Secamb would stop a registered healthcare organisation at liberty to provide vaccination to whosoever it chooses, from doing so.
“To the horror of ambulance staff, some who had travelled almost 100 miles to access this treatment, they were met by a Secamb manager who had been instructed to turn the staff away at the door.
“It is already a national disgrace that ambulance staff will be at the back of the queue for vaccines but this is another level.
“GMB Secamb branch officials have been today proactively seeking to challenge the managers and directly the chief executive officer, Philip Astle.
“And while the Secamb management team, we believe, have now claimed this was an error, too much effort was placed by the trust upon preventing and blocking staff for that to be clearly true.
“As a result of this appalling decision, lives may well be lost.
“The GMB branch must now consider reporting this matter to the Care Quality Commission, the regulators of nurses, paramedics and doctors, and to Sussex Police.
“It will also be seeking a vote of no confidence in the executive directors of Secamb.”
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