Protecting yourself ahead of Christmas: NHS staff encouraged to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

Winter has arrived and I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling the effects of the noticeable temperature drop. Alongside these colder temperatures and darker nights comes an increase in the circulation of viruses.

Winter can be a difficult time, and this is certainly the case for the NHS. As Chief Nursing Officer for England, like you, I am all too familiar with the challenges the winter period brings to the NHS, including higher rates of hospital admissions and staff sickness.

Because of the incredible care and support staff provide for patients, they are more likely to be exposed to flu and COVID-19 than the general population. And of course, these viruses can also be passed on to the people they care for, including some of the most vulnerable patients, those with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions.

That’s why, as frontline healthcare workers, it’s important to recognise that vaccinations offer the best protection against flu and COVID-19 as we go into winter, which is when viruses circulate most and can cause most harm.

I had my seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccinations a couple of weeks ago to better protect myself and those around me, and with less than one week until online bookings for flu and COVID-19 vaccines close, I’m urging frontline staff eligible for these vaccines to book an appointment and get protected ahead of Christmas.

Frontline health and care workers can book their appointments on the website or on the NHS App until 14 December 2023. After that, local flu and COVID-19 vaccination opportunities will be available until 31 January 2024.

The winter season places extra demand on us and our resources. I’d also like to say thank you to all of our NHS colleagues who have helped us to deliver over 15 million flu vaccines and 11 million COVID-19 vaccines during this busy period.

Because of you, this campaign saw the fastest ever start to flu vaccine rollout on record and more people than ever before have received their flu and COVID-19 vaccines in the same appointment, for extra convenience.

So, if you haven’t had your vaccinations yet, please do and encourage others to do the same.

Thank you for everything you are doing to keep yourself and those you care for protected. Your efforts will help keep the NHS strong over winter.

Ruth May

Ruth enjoyed national appointments with NHS Improvement and Monitor, as well as regional and trust leadership roles, before becoming the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for England in January 2019.

In June 2022, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours, Ruth was awarded a DBE for her services to nursing, midwifery and the NHS since she started her nurse training in 1985. Upon receiving her Damehood, Ruth recognised the expertise of nursing and midwifery colleagues in caring for people at every stage of their lives and the vital role that the professions and care staff played during the pandemic. Ruth has led the nursing, midwifery and care professions’ response to COVID-19 in England and led collaborative work with UK CNO colleagues, the NMC and trade unions to ensure agreement and consistent messaging on key issues.

She is passionate about nurturing the next generation of NHS nursing and midwifery leaders and encouraging professional development opportunities. This includes advocating for improved mental health awareness, championing volunteer activity to support the frontline workforce, and she is a vocal supporter of the WRES agenda and increased diversity across the NHS.

Proud mum to her wonderful daughter, Ruth is a great believer in a healthy professional and home life balance for all.

Find Ruth on Twitter @CNOEngland / #teamCNO.