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NHS staff urged to have flu vaccine

NHS staff who refuse to have a flu vaccine are risking the lives of chronically ill and frail patients, a leading doctor has warned.

Dr Ben Marshall, a consultant respiratory physician at Southampton General Hospital, said the failure of more than half of all frontline staff in England to take up the vaccination was “unacceptable”.

“Influenza can be a troublesome infection for the average healthy person but it can be life-threatening for patients with chronic illnesses, immunodeficiency or frail conditions,” he explained.

“Therefore, it is really crucial staff across the NHS have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their colleagues, who would take the brunt of their absence from work if they contracted flu but, more importantly, to protect their patients who might not be able to withstand the effects of the virus.”

Dr Marshall spoke out as University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, continued its drive to increase the number of staff who receive the vaccination, where currently 43% of frontline staff are protected.

“With all eyes firmly fixed on care, compassion and consideration in the NHS right now, I find it really quite shocking and frankly unacceptable for staff to avoid vaccination simply because they do not want it - that must change,” he said.

“It is for that reason I am working hard to increase take-up in Southampton and, hopefully, push other trusts to follow our lead and bring senior clinicians on board to instil in their staff just how important vaccination is.”

Dr Marshall, who has recorded a video aimed at encouraging staff to make the time to have a vaccine, added: “I ask all clinical staff to take up the vaccination. It is safe, it is recommended by the Department of Health and I and all of my consultant colleagues have had it with no ill-effects.”

In England last winter 45.6% of frontline NHS staff received the seasonal influenza vaccine, according to Public Health England.

This was an improvement on the 2011/12 winter where 44.6% had the jab.

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Readers' comments (53)

  • No, NHS staff that decide not to have the influenza jab are exercising their right to choose. I certainly won't be bullied into having it by my employer.

    Consultants contracts will kill thousands of patients this year and next, how many patients have died from contracting influenza from a nurse? The number is zero!

    Dr Ben Marshall who do better to volunteer to work weekends and nights to offer his patients access to expert medical care rather than mouthing-off about staff choosing not to have the flu jab.

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  • Hear, hear! The more I read such bullying piffle, the more determined I will be NOT to have the flu vaccination. There are risks associated with it, and I am NOT prepared to take them just because of the the slight possibility that I may give flu to a patient. I have the RIGHT to refuse and have done so.

    Dr Marshall's comments seem to imply that staff will be going to work when they are unwell. He is probably right, as due to short staffing, many of us feel obliged to attend work when we are not feeling 100% and could potentially be experiencing the first stages of flu.

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  • Anonymous | 3-Dec-2013 10:57 am

    "Consultants contracts will kill thousands of patients this year and next, how many patients have died from contracting influenza from a nurse? The number is zero!"


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  • This is a genuine question- why do so many nurses choose not to have the flu jab?

    I understand they are exercising their right to choose, but why make that choice?

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  • Reply to Jodie's mate

    I am a nurse and I exercise my right not to h ave a flu jab because:

    1. Evidence of real effectiveness not convincing
    2. I have witnessed several colleagues experience mild illness after having it. Granted, they did not have flu, but felt unwell for a few days. They did not contract flu later in the season, but there again, neither did I. I do not trust what the vaccine is doing to my body.
    3. Why should I accept viral material being introduced into by body to prevent others getting flu? I accept the risk that I MAY get flu when I could have been protected, but hey - life is full of risk.
    4, Having any injection is painful!!

    Enough said??

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  • What about patients who refuse the flu jab and potentially put nursing staff at risk? Are Consultants to admonish them too?

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  • Jodie's mate:

    I'm sure everyone who chooses not to have the flu jab has their own reasons particular to them, but I've chosen not to have it principally because I don't like taking medicines unnecessarily: I'm fit and healthy and the flu jab just is not indicated. If I do catch it then I'll take time off work - to protect my patients and fellow staff - that's the whole point of having paid sick leave.

    I think there would've been a greater uptake in staff opting for the jab had we not felt press-ganged and blackmailed into it. The push for the flu jab isn't through concern for staff welfare, it is all about meeting targets and forcing people to remain at work.

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  • I am only a nurse for 37.5 hours a week (well more as we don't get paid breaks) the NHS doesn't own me nor do I owe it anything. The NHS has no right to try and force me to have something I don't want or need.

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  • The government is already blackmailing staff into having the flu jab by linking further money for ED's to having a high proprtion of their staff innoculated aginst flu. Which will only encourage the bullying culture prevalent in the NHS.

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  • The flu vaccine has toxic adjuvants added to it, the bad effects of which may not show immediately, but appear later in chronic illness. Some people have developed transverse myelitis after having it, and others have contracted guillan barre syndrome. In addition, a significant number of children developed narcolepsy following it. So no, I won't be having the flu vaccine.

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  • Who's paying that man to bully staff? Targets, targets, targets, and that's all that matter!

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  • michael stone

    I expected the comments to this one to flow along these lines.

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  • unless it becomes law, staff cannot be coerced or blackmailed into taking up any vaccination. they can be encouraged with relevant, accurate, open and transparent information clearly outlining the risks and benefits but as autonomous healthcare professionals it is up to them to make up their own minds as to what risks and benefits they are prepared to accept for themselves, their families and their patients.

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  • This has become an annual debate. Of course, whether or not you decide to have the Flu vaccination is a personal choice. There is rather too much unnecessary pressure being exerted by employers and that isn't to do with concern over staff. But, as has been demonstrated here, there is a worrying amount of ignorance about the actual evidence of efficacy and side effects. There are people here making decisions based on hearsay, conclusion jumping and just bad information. By all means exercise your right to decline the vaccination, but base that decision on sound evidence and rational thought.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Dec-2013 11:36 am

    don't professionals make informed choices rather than base their decisions on hearsay as you seem to suggest? After all they have the duty to accurately and honestly inform the public as well as themselves.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Dec-2013 11:58 am

    No, they don't always "make informed choices rather than base their decisions on hearsay"! That much is obvious from some of the ignorance and ill-informed comments regarding the science and research evidence.

    I sincerely hope that the public are not being sold some of the garbage written here by so-called professionals. Comments by:
    Anonymous | 3-Dec-2013 5:41 pm
    Anonymous | 3-Dec-2013 10:57 am
    Anonymous | 3-Dec-2013 5:44 pm
    Anonymous | 3-Dec-2013 10:19 pm
    being prime examples of these.

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  • Anonymous 4 Dec 1.44 p.m.

    I don't know who you are, but I certainly think there is something in what Anonymous 3 Dec 10.10 p.m. had to say. Can you find evidence to disupute this, as it has certainly been mentioned in medical press recently.

    There are risks with ALL medication, and as someone pointed out, if an individual is fit and healthy, then the flu vaccination in not indicated, so why take the risk? Just to be boring and repeat what has been said before, it is NHS management wanting to ensure maximum staffing. We are all professionals and we make up our own minds about risk and benefit, and no one should bully us about such an important issue.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Dec-2013 5:03 pm

    I don't know who you are and, as there was no comment from an "Anonymous 3 Dec 10.10 p.m", I think it pretty much proves my point about bad information.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Dec-2013 5:03 pm
    i'm a bit puzzled. i assume that the post you are discussing was the one someone posted at 10.19p.m on the 3rd dec. why haven't you asked that person to produce evidence of their claims?

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  • Anonymous | 4-Dec-2013 5:03 pm

    If we are indeed "all professionals", then I hope that members of the public are being furnished with proper evidence-based advice on the Flu vaccine. Not the, flimsy cr*p being peddled here. Go and do some reading yourself. The evidence is readily available and you should know where to look for it.

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