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Sat 17 April 2021

NHS Professionals has apologised to prospective non-healthcare vaccinators, who undertook hours of training yet haven’t been able to find work

“This was my one chance to stand up and be part of something amazing and worthwhile on a national scale. Having devoted so much time, effort, energy and passion to be turned down at the final hurdle is utterly demoralising.”

This has been the experience of Liz Walters, who applied for a non-healthcare vaccinator role with the NHS back in December, after seeing a Government advert. She believes that thousands of other people will have done the same.

Liz says she undertook at least 40 hours of training, checks and inductions to join the temporary, paid workforce to help with the deployment of COVID-19 vaccinations in the UK. This included, she says, 21 modules on subjects such as data protection, fire safety, immunology, vaccine storage and administration – all managed by NHS Professionals, the organisation that supplies temporary work staff to the health service.

However, three months later, in March, Liz suddenly hit a wall. She was informed that her local NHS trust would not be employing non-healthcare vaccinators – essentially undoing all of the hours of work she had devoted to the programme. There was no prior warning that she might not be able to find work, Liz says, and the system makes it extremely difficult to select a new trust.

“A huge amount of money must have been ploughed into this project,” she told Byline Times. “It’s not just NHS Professionals you are dealing with, but all of the outsourced companies responsible for e-learning, background and occupational health checks.”

Liz is far from alone. The NHS Professionals page on TrustPilot – the consumer review website – currently has a 1.4-star average rating (out of five), and has been flooded with complaints from people with seemingly similar experiences.

One person, for example – in a review uploaded two days ago – complains that they applied for a vaccinator role on 3 December. Yet, having completed all the relevant training and video interviews, they have not heard back from NHS Professionals for two months. “What a waste of my time and more importantly what a waste of NHS money,” they say.

NHS PROFESSIONALS TRUSTPILOT, SELECTED QUOTES

“By the time we get through this process everyone will be vaccinated,” Hilary, 25 February.

“Having spent many hours completing all the relevant online training I have heard nothing from them! So much for vaccinating the nation!” 23 January.

“Given the need to vaccinate the population as quickly as possible, I am astounded at such incompetency, from the application process, the website and urgency of response it makes you realise that we may be in this COVID nightmare longer than the general public expect!” Janice, 19 January.

Liz has consequently formed a Facebook network of people in similar positions, so that they can provide mutual help and advice.

On 4 February, NHS Professionals paused its recruitment of non-healthcare vaccinators, saying that it had “sufficient numbers” to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations. However, as Liz’s experience shows, many of the people who had embarked on the process in December hadn’t completed their training until late February and early March – leaving them surplus to requirements, despite months of inductions.

In a statement to Byline Times, NHS Professionals apologised for the way that some prospective vaccinators have been treated.

“The programme rightly has a stringent application process, which has played an important part in vaccinating 24 million people safely,” the spokesperson said. “However, we do recognise that the process, which was set up at pace and scale, has caused frustration to some of the people who chose to support such an important initiative. We are really sorry they did not have the experience they should have had and are doing all we can to ensure any necessary improvements are put in place.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that NHS Professionals has “recruited, vetted and trained” more than 14,000 vaccinators, healthcare professionals and clinical supervisors in the past three months.

Liz believes that non-healthcare professionals may have been pushed down the hierarchy by the Government’s vaccine volunteer scheme. The volunteers are not paid, unlike the non-healthcare professionals, although NHS England has given a considerable amount of money to St John Ambulance for the provision of this workforce – signing a contract in October worth £48.2 million for the supply of 30,500 volunteers, equivalent to roughly £1,500 a head.

Meanwhile, Liz continues to search for a role: “We’ve basically been taken for a huge ride and then abandoned, just to tick Government boxes – it’s a huge abuse of people’s time and hard work. I’d bite the hand off someone who offered me employment as a vaccinator. I am here, ready and just eager to get started.”

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