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NHS staff across the Midlands are being urged to get their free flu vaccinations this year, to help protect themselves and their patients from what can be a deadly virus.
NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Chief Nurse for the Midlands, Siobhan Heafield, is joining England’s top nurse Ruth May to encourage more staff to get their vaccinations, to reduce the number of people contracting flu this winter.
There are more than 170,000 NHS staff caring for patients across hospital trusts in the Midlands, and by taking up the offer of a vaccination they are less likely to become ill with flu, and are also less likely to pass on the virus to vulnerable patients.
Since September, hospitals and other healthcare settings across the country have been laying on special activities to highlight the importance of the flu vaccine and to encourage staff to protect themselves and their families, ultimately protecting their patients.
More than 70% of doctors, nurses, midwives and other NHS staff in the region who have direct contact with patients took up the vaccine through their employer last year, with most local NHS employers achieving 75% or higher.
Siobhan Heafield, Chief Nurse for the Midlands, is backing an open letter to NHS staff from national heads of professions like the Chief Nursing Officer, Ruth May, the NHS National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Midwifery Officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Keith Ridge.
In the letter they urge every member of the NHS’ growing workforce to work together to achieve even higher level of coverage this year. Healthcare staff are at higher risk of catching flu due to their contact with patients.
Siobhan said: “Every one who works or has worked at the point of care with patients – whether in hospitals, GP surgeries, ambulance trusts or in the community – knows that flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter.
“Getting your free vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing flu, so my message to my colleagues is simple: let’s play our part, and take this easy but important step to protect our patients, families, and ourselves, this winter.”
Although the worst cases of flu require time off work, more than half of infections only result in mild or unnoticeable symptoms.
However, those individuals can still pass on the virus to vulnerable people they come into contact with, which is why vaccination of healthcare workers is a critical part of how the NHS prepares for winter.
Recently published evidence suggests a 10% increase in vaccination may be associated with as much as a 10% fall in sickness absence.
Overall uptake levels have increased every year since 2015/16, but there can be variation from trust to trust.
The more successful hospitals employed innovative methods to reach staff, including holding roving clinics and using small incentives, such as badge stickers, to reinforce positive messages.
Those organisations with the lowest uptake levels last winter have been required to buddy up with one of these high-performing trusts to learn from their success, and to report on their progress weekly to ensure it is given the priority it deserves.