The Department of Health is to run a campaign to encourage more NHS staff to get immunised against seasonal influenza, following continued poor uptake among the healthcare workforce last year.
The government’s seasonal flu plan for winter 2011-12, published last week, calls for an increase in vaccination rates for frontline healthcare workers, stating that patients “may expect” them to be vaccinated against seasonal flu.
Uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine in frontline healthcare workers was 34.7% at the end of the 2010-11 vaccination programme, compared with 24.7% in 2009-10, but the DH said “this is still too low”.
The plan said the DH would run an NHS staff vaccination communications campaign in 2011-12, which “will be designed to support local teams, ensure consistency of message, share best practice and harness clinical and professional leadership at both national and local levels”.
The plan said the importance of immunising staff was highlighted by a flu outbreak at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital in 2008, where it was “mainly spread by healthcare workers”.
The plan also set out aims to increase vaccine uptake rates from 50% to 75% over the next three years for under 65s in at-risk groups, and purchasing a central vaccine reserve to cope with shortages like last winter’s.