Escalated efforts to encourage NHS nurses to get vaccinated against influenza ahead of the winter appear to be paying off, with figures indicating a small increase in uptake.
So far this season there has been a 1% increase in nurses in England getting a flu jab compared to 2017.
“Healthcare professionals have a responsibility to be vaccinated to protect themselves and their patients from flu”
Latest data from Public Health England shows 44% of 346,589 frontline nurses received the vaccine from 1 September to 31 October 2018, compared to 43% of 346,881 nurses in the same period last year.
Overall, uptake among all healthcare workers involved in direct patient care has increased by 0.3%.
So far in 2018, 46.3% of 960,159 frontline professionals have been vaccinated, compared to 46% of 952,528 in 2017, equating to 6,784 additional staff.
Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu at Public Health England, said health and socail care staff were more at risk of catching flu and more likely to pass it on to possibly vulnerable patients.
The flu jab campaign has been stepped up this season after a particularly challenging last winter due to a combination of extreme weather, the worst flu season in a decade and high levels of norovirus.
As reported by Nursing Times, NHS trusts have been asked to achieve a “near universal” uptake from their frontline staff this season.
They have been told that staff who decide not to be vaccinated should be asked to explain the reason, so information can be used to support greater compliance.
Dr Pebody said: “Healthcareprofessionals have a responsibility to be vaccinated to protect themselves and their patients from flu. Which is why this year, NHS England has asked all healthcare workers to have the vaccine and if they wish to opt out, to state the reason why.
“Frontline health and social care workers are at more risk of catching flu because of their contact with patients,” he said. ”They are also more likely to pass it on to these patients, many of whom will be in at-risk groups, even if they are not symptomatic.”
Staff involved in hands-on care are among those considered to be at heightened risk of flu who are entitled to a free vaccination as well as children, pregnant women, older people and patients with certain long-term conditions.