by Amy Jones
Friday, 5
November 2021
Debate
10:15

The NHS vaccine mandates aren’t what they seem

The Government is — once again — trying to nudge us
by Amy Jones
Clap the carers has become sack the carers.

Two developments on vaccines in the NHS in quick succession. First, the news that the Government intends to force NHS staff to have both a Covid vaccine and a flu jab or risk losing their jobs. Then, the announcement that it won’t kick in until… April!

At first sight, this simply seems like bad and nonsensical policy.

It has the potential to wreak havoc on an already stretched service. Despite a record uptake, around 25% of NHS staff did not have a flu jab last year; add to that the 116,000 NHS workers who have not yet had a Covid jab, and this has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of employees.

There has been little discussion about why healthcare workers may be declining vaccination and barely any consideration as to what their motives may be. For those declining the Covid jab, there is also little analysis of whether they have previously been infected. Estimates vary on how many NHS staff have caught Covid (accurate figures are not produced), but it is likely to be in the order of hundreds of thousands.

Even if it was to be brought in instantly, there are many practical reasons as to why a Covid and Flu vaccine mandate would be flawed: it risks discriminating against BAME employees and it can even make the vaccine hesitant less likely to be vaccinated. The common claim that such a requirement would be equivalent to Hep B vaccines is also incorrect, as I outlined here before.

But the fact that its introduction is being delayed until April makes it stranger still. Repeatedly, we have been told that the NHS is on the cusp of its busiest winter ever. And yet, this vaccine mandate only kicks in from April onwards, months after the busiest period. So if the argument is that the vaccine mandate is needed to make the NHS safe, then why is it not necessary it over our busiest winter? And if it is not needed, why coerce staff into getting the vaccine in the first place?

There is, of course, another explanation. Rather like the vaccine passports in settings like nightclubs, that were due to be brought in at the end of September but were then abandoned last minute, the timetabling of these measures gives the Government the chance — the hope, for some cabinet ministers — that it never need actually happen. If the Covid situation is better by then, coercive measures like these can be set aside. In the meantime, it acts as yet another “nudge”, a distant threat to try to get more NHS employees vaccinated.

I’m not a fan of “nudging” as it is coercive, dishonest, goes against basic principles of public health, and risks seriously damaging our trust in authorities. However in this case I’m hoping that’s what it ends up being. The alternative, stripping away the rights of the staff of an organisation that already suffers from a toxic culture, in which a quarter of the staff say they have already been bullied and harassed and three quarters have already said they are considering leaving, is too self-destructive to contemplate.

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John Riordan
John Riordan
10 months ago

“I’m not a fan of “nudging” as it is coercive, dishonest, goes against basic principles of public health, and risks seriously damaging our trust in authorities.”

I read Richard Thaler’s book when it came out about ten years ago and I have to say that it’s unfortunate that Nudge theory is getting such a bad press these days. It was never presented originally as a tool for governments to act as controllers over social behaviour on a mass scale as it now seems to be; it was really just a series of insights about human behaviour that can be leveraged to benefit the individual if applied correctly. And it is important to note that the book was intended to be read by the private individual as much as governments and corporations; it was presented as a toolkit for self-improvement as much as anything else.

However, the government’s harnessing of Nudge theory into an institutionalised form of social gaslighting does indeed deserve every ounce of criticism heaped upon it, and a good deal more. Nothing demonstrates so well how a good idea can be turned into a disaster by the dead hand of the State. In the context of this article specifically, it must surely be obvious that any government edict amounting to “Do what you’re told or you lose your job” is nowhere close to a nudge, and is actually a wholly authoritarian iron fist pounding individual liberty to death.

This is what happens when bureaucrats get control of too much power, and it’s not like the evidence wasn’t always there.

Last edited 10 months ago by John Riordan
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Nudge was always going to be used for nefarious purposes. If you consider that the UK government task team (Sage?) which is chock full of psychologists has used its disproportionate power to cow the population and make them terrified of Covid, what do you expect from ‘nudge’.
For goodness sake, isn’t one of these Sage experts/directors of behavioral change an avowed Marxist? Or was it communist? No matter, she is up to no good and is clearly a fan of authoritarianism. This is opportunity time for the communists!

John Riordan
John Riordan
10 months ago

I agree with your analysis generally, all I’m pointing out is that while it was a dead cert that Nudge Theory would be ruined by its harnessing to the State, in itself it is not a harmful or malicious set of ideas.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I guess that my point is that it was always going to be used for harm and not good. Realism….

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

… it was really just a series of insights about human behaviour that can be leveraged to benefit the individual if applied correctly. 
Perhaps it depends on what can be leveraged entails? If leverage means ‘to use to maximum effect’ then for me the use would be malicious if it contained covert methods of persuasion as the tool of manipulation.

Last edited 10 months ago by michael stanwick
Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
10 months ago

‘Covid-19’ .. that is your covert method of persuasion tool used in mass manipulation…

John Riordan
John Riordan
10 months ago

It depends surely who’s doing the leveraging? If it’s yourself, it’s not a problem, for example if you want to get into the habit of saving for a pension, set one up even if you don’t presently have any spare money, have your bank account linked to it with payment details etc, so that the act of making payments is easy and convenient.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I’m not sure, I expect that some people support ‘nudging’ for purposes they approve of e.g. getting fat lazy people off their behinds, stopping people smoking, but not when it comes to their preferred lifestyles (drinking wine, not being hectored and shamed to use a quite possibly totally ineffective face mask during a pandemic!

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
10 months ago

The marvellous law of unintended consequences. ” It was never presented ……etc” .A child could see this coming. Any effective idea will be used by the unscrupulous to achieve their goal.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
10 months ago

There are a lot of adjectives I could use to describe the UK Government but oddly unscrupulous is not one. Without scruples but that is different, selfish, self-centred, self-conscious. We have a prime minister who wants to be liked and applauded and accordingly plays to the gallery. He chops and changes because different parts of the gallery want different things. His vision is to please and placate. It was the gallery that was for and against the Covid restrictions and he followed the majority with an appropriate show of reluctance to try and keep the other side happy. Rather too late and rather too long, because he always wanted to see what was needed when what was needed was to anticipate and pre-empt.

This is just another example of fence sitting.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
10 months ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Boris Johnson is a blithering idiot.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
10 months ago

Neil Ferguson comes to mind, as a manipulator of pandemics.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

In the context of this article specifically, it must surely be obvious that any government edict amounting to “Do what you’re told or you lose your job” is nowhere close to a nudge, and is actually a wholly authoritarian iron fist pounding individual liberty to death.
This. Exactly. Perhaps not a nudge but an overt shove?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

There are plenty of tools in this world that are both good and useful until abused. I’m not sure how many of them make it to the workshops of the governments, adminstrators and bureaucracies without being utterly tarnished.

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I first heard this on UnHerd, and it has stayed with me: The inconceivable has become the inevitable. Exactly what happened.
https://youtu.be/vJYaXy5mmA8
I would encourage everyone to watch this. Very applicable to being “nudged.” 15 minutes, but well worth it. Some quotes:
All the changes started happening slowly after you left.
Can’t blame the people. When your belly’s empty, you swallow anything they shove down your throat.
“We hardly noticed.”
“When you’re hungry, you’ll swallow anything that the government shoves down your throat.”
“No choice.”
“Is there anything you don’t get fined for?”
“I’ll have to think about that.”
“I can’t live like this!”
Sure you can. We’re creatures of habit. You’ll get used to it.”

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

I am starting to like Amy the doctor more and more.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

She is one of the sheep – maybe one who has a slight drift from the flock’s direction, but not much.

The NHS is firstly a Social Engineering Organization who do health on the side to justify their political, hard and soft, power and money.

“why a Covid and Flu vaccine mandate would be flawed: it risks discriminating against BAME employees”

The doctor is completely captured by the ‘Race & Diversity’ industry. This is NHS speak to the core.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

At least Amy learned the word ‘nudging’ … eh…

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Er, it is not. I realise you are a hard Right culture warrior (American?) writing under a number of different names – but the NHS was enormously popular at its foundation and still is.
I realise the NHS has many flaws and is certainly not the best health system in the world, but unfortunately the American Right support an even worse one and oppose in principle any extension of social provision (they sometimes hypocritically exclude Medicare from their ideological strictures). This is why the US has some of the best, and at the same time some of the worst, health care of any advanced nation.
Health is to a significant extent a societal and not just an individual matter.

D Glover
D Glover
10 months ago

 there are many practical reasons as to why a Covid and Flu vaccine mandate would be flawed: it risks discriminating against BAME employees

Please explain. Do BAME employees know something we don’t?
Do they encounter discrimination when they request jabs?
Are they punished more if found to be unvaccinated?

Andrea X
Andrea X
10 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

I think next time I read about BAME employees being discriminated I will self-combust.

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

Excellent point! The anonymous “Amy” is woke, politically correct, and also a coward. Use your name! You have one of the most “privileged” jobs on the planet, yet you are afraid? Grow up!
What is with the anonymity? Does she meet with UnHerd in safe houses under cover of darkness? She is lucky that she can wear a mask to protect her identity, so she won’t be sent to a gulag in….Wales.

Dalla Jenney
Dalla Jenney
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The anonymity is because any NHS doctor who speaks in less than 100pc glowing terms about the NHS, and its wider political agenda, will be nudged out of their job quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. With £100k of student debt hanging over them, and perhaps 7-10y of personal investment, there’s a lot to lose. Junior doctors have almost no employment rights, and they can’t practise as doctors outside the NHS unless they emigrate. The Government milks its monopsony.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Name calling. It is rather obvious why you might wish to be anonymous when working in a large organisation of which you are often critical, which, if you’d read her articles, she is. Argue with the ideas, not attack the person, should be a good mantra for all of us.
And most of the people on this rather consequence-free discussion forum are anonymous! I haven’t seem you object to that. Is James Joyce your real name?

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
10 months ago

I’m not a fan of “nudging” as it is coercive, dishonest, goes against basic principles of public health, and risks seriously damaging our trust in authorities.
IMO, ‘nudging’ is the callous treatment of individuals through the disregard and removal of their free agency as sovereign human beings.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
10 months ago

I like it, it’s progressive thinking as lockdowns should have been. It’s clever but if the goal post has shifted, all the better for the ones like me who don’t want a vaccine. Thus the responsibility has been passed to each individual to make their choice.
Besides individual responsibility & choice, we now have a drug for Covid . That’s what was needed in the first place . Not the vaccine. Covid vaccines will hopefully become redundant.
Hence with advent of time, Covid will pass, fear mongering will retreat and hopefully lessons will be learnt i.e ‘look before you leap’ & try not be sheep.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

“Covid will pass, fear mongering will retreat and hopefully lessons will be learnt”

Nothing is going back to the way it was. The Government will never give back the freedoms it has stolen from you and society by the Covid Response, which was nothing to do with health, all to do with usurping power. It is all Animal Farm, things do not get better and more Liberal.

“i.e ‘look before you leap’ & try not be sheep.”

But you are sheep, the postmodernist Liberal/Lefty educators have turned all the ones who have gone through the system since the mid 1980s into little sheep – look into their eyes, all you see is tallow, fear, desire to graze and rut., thinking is long gone….

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
10 months ago

It is interesting that so many NHS staff are declining the vaccine. It would be useful to see that broken down by job category. If doctors are refusing it, I think we need to know why. Do they recognise that most frontline staff probably have immunity from infection and that adding the vaccine to that existing immunity would be dangerous?
It is now recognised that the vaccine does not prevent transmission to others and, as those who have had it are likely to have few symptoms if infected, they are perhaps more likely to transmit the virus to patients than the unvaccinated, who would probably be at home ill. Patients are, in any case, likely to catch it from each other. The motive for this mandate is, therefore, likely not to be the emotive one of ‘protecting the vulnerable’, but that of reducing staff absence in the NHS by reducing the time that contacts of infected people have to isolate. As Covid is completely endemic in hospitals, and has been for months, stopping the pointless testing of the healthy would be another way of achieving this aim.
A more useful test would be one of immunity levels in all staff so that their need for the vaccine, or a booster, could be individually assessed and they could base their decision on that knowledge. This would be treating them like intelligent human beings and, in the case of the medically qualified, respecting their professional knowledge. Some of the resistance might then disappear.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
10 months ago

The NHS Definition of Covid-19 Presence is Not What It Seems…

there, I fixed that article Title for you..

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago

Why is “Amy Jones” allowed to publish anonymously? Is the UK the equivalent of Moscow at the height of the Cold War? Is her life in danger for talking to the Western press?
Doesn’t seem right.
Thoughts?

Last edited 10 months ago by James Joyce