Duncan Burton, Chief Nurse for the NHS in the South East supports the call for the NHS’ frontline workers to protect themselves and their patients this year by taking up their free flu jab.
Duncan is supporting this year’s drive to ensure that as many NHS staff in the South East as possible get vaccinated against seasonal flu – meaning they are both less likely to need time off over the busy winter period, and less likely to pass on the virus to vulnerable patients.
Since September, hospitals and other healthcare settings have been laying on special activities designed to highlight the importance of the flu vaccine, and celebrate those staff who choose to protect themselves and their patients.
Nationally, a record 70% of doctors, nurses, midwives and other NHS staff who have direct contact with patients took up the vaccine through their employer last year, with most local NHS employers achieving 75% or higher.
England’s Chief Nurse Ruth May has been joined in writing an open letter to NHS staff by other heads of professions like 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 it they urge every member of the NHS’ growing frontline workforce to work together to achieve even higher level of coverage this year.
Duncan Burton, Chief Nurse for the NHS in the South East, said:
“All health and social care staff can help protect the patients they care for by ensuring that they have the flu vaccine. Healthcare professionals, who might unknowingly be carrying the virus, can easily pass it on to patients who are already vulnerable through other medical conditions, leading to potentially serious consequences.
“Vaccination remains the best way to protect patients and help reduce the virus from spreading further. It’s clear trusts have employed innovative methods to reach staff, and I’m pleased that so many colleagues in the South East are having their vaccination.
“As winter and the flu season draws closer, I would urge colleagues who have yet to be vaccinated, to make arrangements to have the vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccination will help make the NHS more resilient – both for the people who need care and those who provide it.”
Ruth May said: “Each and every one of us who works or has worked on the front line – whether in hospitals, GP surgeries, ambulance trusts or in the community – knows that every winter flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people.
“Getting your free, quick jab is the single most effective way of preventing flu, so my message to my colleagues is simple: let’s do our duty, and take this easy but important step to protect our patients, and ourselves, this winter.”
Flu-related staff sickness can also affect services at what can be the busiest time of year, particularly for A&Es.
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.
- In September, Public Health England launched a new campaign to encourage frontline health and social care workers to get their annual flu jab.
- The campaign – Time to get your flu jab – encourages staff to get their jab, reminding them that it is one of the most effective ways to protect themselves from flu and reduce their risk of passing it on to others, especially groups at higher risk of flu complications such as pregnant women and older people.