Frontline nurses are being told that getting vaccinated against swine flu is the ‘single most important thing’ they can do to help the NHS “stay ahead of the game” this winter.
The Department of Health has sent a series of set statements, described as “core scripts”, to team leaders and NHS managers intended to get the government’s message across to frontline staff and give the vaccination programme a “big push”.
Additionally a “myth buster” leaflet has been sent out along with other promotional material – using the strapline “if you can’t catch it, you can’t pass it on”. The myth buster does not contain vaccine trial data, but sets out a series of fact and fiction style statements on the vaccine, such as its safety.
The core scripts acknowledge the decision on whether to have the vaccine is up to nurses but suggests they will be asked to “think very carefully about it”. “It’s imperative that we get as many staff members as possible to take up the vaccine, as quickly as possible,” says one of the scripts for team leaders’ use.
Another, for chief executives, says: “Early indications suggest that some staff are either blasé about their chances of catching swine flu, or concerned about the safety of the vaccine. It’s vital that we shake off this complacency and dispel any myths about the vaccine.”
The hastily arranged campaign follows concerns that uptake among nurses and other frontline staff will be low. Nursing Times’ most recent survey on swine flu vaccination suggested nurses’ confidence in the jab’s safety had fallen over the last two months – with 47 per cent saying they would not get vaccinated compared with 31 per cent in August. Safety remained the most common concern (news, page 3, 6 October).
With reference to this, the scripts advise team leaders to tell staff “please don’t believe the scare stories” and that the DH is confident “that it is very low risk”.
A DH spokesman told Nursing Times the government had no data on uptake during the first week of the campaign but expected figures to be available shortly.
He said health secretary Andy Burnham and chief medical officerSir Liam Donaldson had visited University College London Hospital last Wednesday to see frontline staff being vaccinated and claimed the response there had been positive, especially among A&E and critical care staff.
Both the RCN and Unison have backed the vaccination programme. RCN president Maura Buchanan and college chief executive Peter Carter were due to receive their jabs yesterday at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.