Cardiff ordered to pay £9K to anti-vaxxer healthcare student

Case hinged on university’s failure to promptly read a form on which the student declared their opposition to immunisations

July 1, 2019
Source: Getty

A Welsh university has been ordered to pay more than £9,000 compensation to a student whose anti-vaccination beliefs meant that they were unable to continue with a healthcare course.

The ruling by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator hinged on the fact that the student had informed Cardiff University that they had not had any vaccinations, and would not consent to having any in future, but that the university did not read the form stating this until the course was under way.

The OIA ordered the university to pay the student £9,342.

A case summary published by the watchdog on 1 July says that the student had completed an occupational health questionnaire before starting their course declaring their anti-vaccination beliefs, but that Cardiff’s policy at the time was to wait until enrolment before reviewing the forms to avoid having to read the responses of applicants who did not go on to sign up.

When the form was reviewed a couple of months later, staff raised concerns about the student’s suitability for practical work. They spoke to the student about the consequences of not being immunised and initiated a fitness-to-practise process.

While the fitness-to-practise committee acknowledged the student’s right not to be vaccinated, it ruled that allowing the student to continue on the course would put their health and the health of patients at risk, and the student was withdrawn, albeit with permission to transfer to a non-professional programme.

The student lodged a complaint, which was upheld by Cardiff, with the institution acknowledging that its processes had been unclear and too slow. There had been no reference to vaccination requirements on the university’s website or on its offer letter, and students had not been told that their occupational health questionnaires would not be reviewed immediately.

Cardiff offered the student £5,000 compensation but rejected an appeal by the student against the fitness-to-practise ruling.

The student then went to the OIA, which rejected the complaint about the fitness-to-practise ruling but recommended the payment of £5,000 compensation because of delays in the process. It upheld the complaint about the student’s treatment by Cardiff, highlighting that the student had paid for accommodation that they might not have needed if the provider had told them about the vaccination requirements before they started the course. The OIA recommended that the university offer further compensation of £4,342.

In a separate case summary, also published on 1 July, the OIA said that it had told Wrexham Glyndwr University to compensate eight students who had complained about the quality of a healthcare-related course.

The watchdog said that the students had complained that a key part of the course had not been taught as promised, meaning that they were not given the necessary skills to practise safely. Some teaching hours were cancelled for some modules, and the group also complained about the behaviour of a staff member, who they said was “unapproachable and aggressive”.

The OIA, which ruled that the complaint was partly justified, said that Glyndwr should refund tuition fees of £2,140 to each student, and pay an additional £1,500 compensation to each of them for the inconvenience caused.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

The student was lucky not to have been dismissed from the university on the grounds that their lunatic views on vaccination endangered the rest of the student body, never mind any patients encountered during clinical practice. It must be a great relief to everyone that they are not entering a healthcare profession, as they might have presented their unfounded opinions as medical 'facts' as well as being a physical danger to anyone with whom they come into contact.

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