All nurses working in direct contact with patients will be urged to have the flu vaccine later this month, as the annual immunisation programme gets underway.
The overall percentage of frontline NHS staff vaccinated last year against flu increased to 45% from 34% in 2010-11. However, registered nurses remained the group with the lowest uptake at 39%.
Last year’s seasonal vaccination programme was accompanied for the first time by an advertising campaign specifically targeted at NHS staff. The “Flu Fighter” campaign, run by NHS Employers, will be repeated again this year in an attempt to boost uptake further.
NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: “The bottom line is that staff who are protected against flu can’t pass it to their patients.
“Traditionally, the take up of vaccinations among staff has been low, but with the fantastic support of local organisations we can drive up vaccinations and protect patients.”
Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison, said some staff mistakenly believed the vaccine could make them ill, while others believed it was better for the immune system to naturally fight the virus.
“The problem is, it’s not just about them, it’s about their family and the patients they are caring for,” she said. “By protecting themselves they are protecting the people in their care.”
But she added: “One concern is that since last year some trusts have got rid of their occupational health teams and you do need enough staff who are trained to give people the vaccine.”
Research presented last week at the Health Protection Agency’s annual conference in Coventry showed that 43% of midwives in London chose to have the vaccine in 2011-12.