As health minister, I often have to ensure that Scotland’s health service has the ability to react to issues that threaten the wellbeing of the nation - including preparing for annual flu outbreaks.
The Scottish government takes this very seriously and we have worked for a number of years to ensure that Scotland is in the best possible position to manage each flu season.
The annual campaign to encourage people who are most at risk to get the vaccination started in early October, and included new television and radio advertisements.
As you will know, for someone with a long term health condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease, the complications from flu can be deadly.
As part of this year’s campaign, however, we also want to remind all nurses that they need to get the vaccination. This is very important as it significantly reduces the risk of flu breaking out in healthcare settings.
‘When colleagues are off work with flu, the burden placed on other staff is huge and this places further pressure on a system that already has an increased demand for beds’
On average, only around 20 per cent of our NHS workforce get the seasonal flu vaccination. This means that thousands of healthcare professionals could be putting their own patients and families at risk by not protecting themselves. Many patients have serious illnesses, which could be fatal if they become infected. It is important to remember that this risk is needless and easy to prevent.
We know that many patients dismiss flu as not serious enough to worry about; some don’t realise they are eligible for the vaccination and others fear the side effects. Some patients know it is important but just feel that they are too busy to stop and take the time to get vaccinated.
I would like Scotland’s nurses to set an example to their patients, encourage them to come forward and get the vaccine - and make sure they get vaccinated themselves.
At this time of year, all nurses will have been involved in the preparations for winter - considering flexibility in staffing resources, equipment and supplies. Vaccination should be part of this planning. When colleagues are off work with flu, the burden placed on other healthcare professionals is huge and this places further pressure on a system that already has an increased demand for beds.
It’s not difficult to see that being vaccinated can improve patient and staff safety while helping reduce the burden on individuals and teams.
It only takes a minute to get the flu jab, but this will protect you for 12 months and protect your patients at the same time. Take up the offer of the jab and play your role in ensuring Scotland’s healthcare system remains healthy over the flu season.
Nicola Sturgeon is health minister for Scotland
- Readers in England can obtain further information from www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu-jab
‘I don’t want to pass on any infection to people who are already ill - this could have serious consequences’
Debbie Krukowski, 55, from Aberdeen suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and is a ward assistant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
She will be receiving the seasonal flu vaccine this year to protect herself and her patients from the potentially life threatening virus.
She said: “I have a weakened immune system so will be going for my seasonal flu jab in the next few weeks to make sure I am not ill over the festive season.
“Because I work with patients with a variety of health conditions, I also have to take their health and wellbeing into consideration.
“I don’t want to pass on any infection to people who are already ill - this could have serious consequences.
“Lots of people don’t think that they are eligible to receive the vaccine as they may live a healthy life themselves.
“However, we have to be aware of those around us. We could be putting friends, family members or work colleagues at risk of catching the flu and that’s the last thing we want to give them at Christmas, especially if they are asthmatic, diabetic or even pregnant.
“I would urge everyone who will be in contact with people with weakened immune systems this winter to get
the seasonal flu jab. It will take 10 seconds to get and will protect you for the next 12 months.”