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With winter upon us, NHS organisations across the Midlands have been hard at work encouraging their staff to have their flu vaccinations in order to protect each other, their own loved ones and those they care for. Northampton General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (NGH) has been leading the way since early in the campaign, having achieved over 80% of staff vaccinated.
NHS England and NHS Improvement – Midlands spoke with Kieran Jones, Communications Officer and flu comms lead for NGH, to better understand how they’ve achieved such success this winter:
Do you have any tried and tested methods of increasing uptake at NGH?
Understanding what appeals to your workforce is important; incentivisation is a guaranteed way to generate participation. At NGH we offer all members of staff a £4 voucher to spend on food and drink at any of our eateries after vaccination. On the run up to the campaign, the promotion of the £4 lunch voucher is always prominent in our materials and we often see a high volume of staff being vaccinated in the first weeks of the campaign.
Aside from this, our three key routes to success are to:
- Refresh the messaging each year. We like to draw attention to flu messaging, and get creative. Last year we used a range of memes to promote the flu campaign and this year we used popular cartoon characters to dispel myths and promote the vaccine.
- Remain consistent. Each week we had a plan of what materials would be sent out based on feedback from occupational health and conversations with staff. Content is published every day via different channels, in both digital and print formats in order to reach as many people as possible.
- Use every available channel you have. Even posters! We placed 12 posters in notice boards across the site, and used a bitly link which led users to the flu clinic schedule, in 48 hours we had 113 unique users click-through.
Our intranet background was amended to advertise the vaccination and we also used a ticker. The background is responsive, so no matter how big or small your screen is, the message will be visible.
We already have a private Facebook group for our nurses and midwives and we recently launched a similar community group for all staff to use; this was incredibly helpful for getting messages to those who do not have regular access to a PC or email account.
USE EVERY AVENUE OF COMMUNICATION YOU HAVE AT YOUR DISPOSAL!
What have you introduced this year which you’ve never done before? How has it landed with staff?
A few new ideas were launched this year with varied success. Firstly, we introduced virtual reality headset for needle phobic staff after researching the use of technology with anxiety. The plan was for users to have a 360-degree video play while having their jab administered. Unfortunately, uptake was not good with this, so lesson learned. However, the technology was low in cost and does have potential for use in other campaigns.
We also introduced a ‘Flu at NGH’ newsletter which has seen four issues, each one includes a real-life story on the effects of flu, vaccine information, blogs and information from Public Health England and details on where staff can get their vaccine.
Last year, our neighbouring hospital, Kettering General Hospital had an infant patient, Ned, who sadly died after complications brought on from the flu virus. We have a good relationship with KGH and they allowed us to use the story to promote the importance of the vaccine in Northampton.
We also shared Kevin Upwey’s story and Henry’s story. Visuals were used to promote these powerful stories. Ned’s story was very close to home, which we feel really struck a nerve with our workforce. So, some of the credit has to be given to the organisations who worked with these families and published their stories.
This year we’ve used a wide range of different materials and communication channels. We’ve come a long way from the days of only promoting our free lunch vouchers. All our content was new for this year and will be changed each year going forward.
How big is the team working on the flu campaign? Do you work closely with your occupational health team?
One person in the communications team was tasked with developing and delivering the flu campaign, alongside other work. The occupational health team working on the flu campaign is made up of three nurses and three administrators as well as two specialist vaccination nurses based in maternity, who were responsible for vaccinating our maternity workforce as well as expectant mums.
Working closely with the occupational health team is essential. Without this it would be impossible to deliver an effective communications campaign. Our occupational health team is essentially the eyes and ears driving the campaign. They hear the stories on why people have decided for or against the vaccine. More importantly, they have the statistics, which we use for targeting and the feedback for myth-busting and messaging.
Lots of staff work shifts – how have you been reaching those who aren’t around 9am to 5pm?
We introduced the ‘Friday night blitz’ and ‘Saturday morning swoop’. This involves our occupational health team taking vaccination trolleys to wards and departments in the evening and early in the morning, so night shift workers can have their vaccination either when they come on shift or just before they go home.
This year, we increased the number of late night and early morning visits, and held them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night/morning. The occupational health team will take out three vaccination trolleys from 6pm until 11pm in the evenings and between 6am and 10am in the morning. This also covers staff who may have regular weekend shifts.
We found it has been really important to go to staff rather than expect them to go to the occupational health team. Our messaging has focused on the risks associated with not having a flu jab and also on where and when our occupational health team are available, which includes an arrangement for ‘on demand’ visits.
Have you had any particular challenges this year?
From a communications perspective, the challenge is always analysing the performance from the previous year and asking:
- What can we do differently?
- What works well?
- How can we increase reach?
We have used some wacky designs that have resulted in questions from senior members of staff… our response has always been the same – “But you saw the message.”
What are your top three tips for other organisations?
- Maintain consistency and high visibility of the occupational health flu team, ensuring staff have access to clinic appointments as well as delivering visits to departments, wards and meetings.
- Start the communications campaign early, ensure every avenue is utilised and ensure your content is refreshed each year.
- Provide incentives and evidence on why staff should have the flu vaccine, make the reasoning behind having the vaccination personal to them and educate on serious risks brought on by the flu virus.
What’s next for the final stages of your campaign?
From now until the end of February 2020, we will be working with our occupational health team to focus on areas with low vaccination uptake. We are developing targeted messages and our flu crew will be visiting these areas so staff can have their vaccine without having to make an appointment or visit the occupational health department. The purpose of this is to get individual low uptake areas to a minimum vaccination rate of 50%.
For the past two weeks we have been publishing a chart showing uptake by area, distributed via email, our weekly bulletin and social media groups. This has begun to generate a greater level of awareness and interest, along with influencing those areas with the lowest level of uptake to achieve the same level as their higher performing peers. This degree of competition has been interesting to see, as it is something we had considered before, but not felt confident in publishing the information, as we did not want to be seen as ‘naming and shaming’. However, the effect has been the reverse.
Wards achieving 100% uptake have been rewarded with certificates to display on ward notice boards and the achievement has been shared by those teams on social media as they are proud of what they are doing to protect themselves and their patients.
When the flu season comes to a close, we will issue an exit survey to all staff in an attempt to find out the main decider for staff deciding not to vaccinate. I plan to capture the nationality of each respondent to see if culture impacts on the decision of vaccination.
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