We must be fully prepared for the flu season, says Dean Royles
Most NHS trusts have received stocks of flu vaccine for the coming season. And most nurses are very conscious of how important vaccination is.
They were at the forefront of the fight against flu two years ago when it spread quickly, causing 602 deaths in England. Two thirds of those who died were between 15 and 64 years old, which shows how factors like poor health can make people of any age vulnerable.
Who is to say this year won’t be another bad flu season, or the year after? We need to be fully prepared. That doesn’t just mean vaccinating patients. It means vaccinating healthcare workers too.
It is essential that everything is done to help frontline staff avoid potentially carrying the virus for weeks, without knowing, and passing it to patients, friends and family.
“We hope that flu vaccination will one day become commonplace throughout the NHS, just like handwashing”
Winter can also be an extremely busy time for the NHS and vaccination helps to keep the nursing workforce fighting fit when their patients most need them.
This year, staff will be well supported by employers to learn everything they need to know about the vaccine, including where to have it done quickly and conveniently.
NHS Flu Fighter - the national campaign run by NHS Employers last year - is back and here to support trusts to make the flu vaccine readily available to staff.
An additional 100,000 frontline staff were vaccinated against flu last year and we want the increase to continue.
But nurses not in general practice have the lowest uptake, although it did rise from 30% to 39.3% per cent last year. Nurses in GP surgeries have the highest uptake of any frontline NHS staff group, while the overall frontline workforce uptake rose from 34.7% to 44.6%. We want to increase these rates and, in turn, protect patients.
Nurses have had many reasons for not being vaccinated in the past. Some were concerned about its efficacy. In response we have researched and produced clear, clinical information, including facts about influenza and information about why vaccination is effective.
We have listened to nurses who find it difficult to find time in busy schedules, or who work in the community. We have been involved in hosting workshops, sharing best practice and planning advice to make vaccinations as accessible as possible in the workplace. Even niche systems like the free NHS texting service are being put to good use, telling nurses and other community staff about flu clinic times.
By addressing these hurdles one by one, we hope that flu vaccination will one day become commonplace throughout the NHS, just like handwashing.
The passion among staff was fantastic last year. We anticipate another flurry of amazing local campaigns this year and we will be recognising these in our Flu Fighter awards next year.
Last year, Royal Liverpool University Hospital’s staff produced an inspired version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, which encouraged many of their colleagues to be vaccinated. Luton and Dunstable Hospital’s occupational health team ran a lively “Roll up, roll up your sleeves” campaign that involved staff at all levels - essential to success. There are plenty of best practice successes to help get your creative juices flowing.
The case for staff vaccinations is compelling. So please arrange your vaccination now. Protect yourself, your family and your patients. Be a flu fighter - get your
- Flu facts and downloadable materials are available on our Flu Fighter website at www.nhsemployers.org/flu and you can follow the campaign on twitter @NHSflufighter or on Facebook.
Dean Royles is director of NHS Employers