Latest figures suggest that a record number of NHS nurses are likely to be immunised against influenza this winter.
Provisional data published yesterday by Public Health England show more than 340,000 frontline healthcare staff in England had a flu jab in September and October – the first two months of this year’s vaccination campaign.
The figures report that 36.8% of the frontline healthcare workforce have been vaccinated against flu already this winter, compared to 35% of workers in the same period in 2013-14.
“This is an even stronger start than we had last year, when all records were broken and over half a million NHS staff were vaccinated”
Public Health England said the data indicated a positive start to the flu vaccination programme for healthcare workers, but warned that more staff needed to take up the vaccine to help protect vulnerable patients this winter and keep NHS services “running as normal”.
Professor Nick Phin, a flu expert at Public Health England, noted that influenza was an “unpredictable virus” and it is impossible to predict the impact that the disease will have this winter.
“This reinforces the need for annual flu vaccination among key groups including health and social care workers,” he said. “The vaccine is safe and effective and cannot give you flu.”
Professor Keith Willet, national clinical director for acute care at NHS England, added: “As professionals it is part of our duty of care to patients or residents to do everything in our power to protect them against infection, including being immunised against flu.
“We are approaching our busiest season in the health service, when flu outbreaks become a greater risk to our patients and the way we deliver care,” he said. “It is vital that we take steps to protect those we care for, including our colleagues, family and friends by getting vaccinated against flu.”
The annual Flu Fighter campaign, now in its fourth year, is run by NHS Employers on behalf of the Department of Health and Public Health England.
The NHS has increased frontline staff flu vaccinations from 359,080 (34.7%) in 2010-11 to 534,090 (54.8%) – a record high – by the end of last winter.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “This is an even stronger start than we had last year, when all records were broken and over half a million NHS staff were vaccinated.
“Staff and managers within the NHS are doing a great job on this campaign and are very engaged with it,” he said. “Their local projects to raise awareness and improve access to vaccinations are energetic and creative, and should inspire others both inside and outside the health service.”
He added: “It is of course concerning that a large number of NHS staff are still either not choosing to be vaccinated or not finding the time to have it done – but the improving figures speak for themselves and planning is good both nationally and locally.”