Fewer frontline NHS staff have had their influenza vaccine so far this winter compared to the same period in the past two years, sparking warnings that more workers must get the jab to protect themselves and their patients.
Official figures show just 32% of frontline healthcare workers had influenza vaccinations in September and October 2015.
“The latest figures reinforce the need for annual flu vaccination among health and social care workers to help protect both themselves, but also vulnerable patients”
But during the same months last year, almost 37% were vaccinated, while 35% had the jab in that time in 2013.
Experts at Public Health England said more frontline workers needed to have the vaccine to help save lives this winter.
In 2014 to 2015, there were 1,187 admissions to intensive care and high dependency units across England due to confirmed cases of flu, and 8% of these resulted in death.
This year, the annual “flu fighter” campaign to improve NHS staff vaccination rates also includes activities tailored towards those working in social care.
NHS Employers, which jointly runs the campaign, is working with the residential care sector to ensure flu vaccination becomes routine for care workers, by providing information on challenges and good practice.
Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance for Public Health England, said: “People with certain long-term health conditions are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu and sadly, many end up in hospital.”
“The latest figures reinforces the need for annual flu vaccination among key groups including health and social care workers to help protect both themselves, but also vulnerable patients that they might look after, who are at greater risk of the serious consequences of flu,” he said.
“This together with good respiratory infection control measures are important in preventing the spread of flu which can cause illness and disruption in hospitals and care homes,” he added.