The Nursing and Midwifery Council has added its voice to calls for all registered nurses and midwives to get their flu jab ahead of the coming winter period, which is predicted to be tougher than normal.
NMC chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, said: “I strongly encourage all nurses and midwives across the UK to get their flu jab.
“I strongly encourage all nurses and midwives across the UK to get their flu jab”
She said: “Influenza is a dangerous, highly contagious illness and we have already heard warnings that the flu season this year could be worse than in previous years.
“During the busy winter period, flu outbreaks become a greater threat to nurses, midwives and their patients,” said Ms Smith in a statement released today.
She added: “Making sure they have received their flu jab is a simple and effective thing that all nurses and midwives can do to help ensure that they, their patients and colleagues stay flu free this year.”
The extra encouragement from the regulator follows a package of “contingency actions” that were announced last month to try and boost the uptake of flu vaccinations among health and care staff.
In October, it was revealed that free flu jabs were being extended to all care home staff in England, as part of measures designed to help frontline services cope with pressures this winter.
The Department of Health and national NHS bodies also said trusts had been told to “ramp up” efforts to ensure nurses, doctors and other staff received the free flu jab.
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Although last year saw record take up of influenza vaccination, they noted that more than one in three NHS staff still failed to have the jab, with just one in five being vaccinated in some trusts.
This year, trusts are being told to make the vaccine readily available to staff without the need to disrupt their work, but also to record why anyone who decides to opt out chose to do so.
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In addition, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers were due to receive letters reminding them of their “professional duty” to protect patients by being immunised against influenza.
The letters were signed by senior nurse leaders including chief nursing officer for England Professor Jane Cummings and Dr Ruth May, NHS Improvement’s executive director of nursing.
Meanwhile, infection control nurses have warned that vaccinating as many staff as possible against influenza early in the season will be important if the NHS is to cope with the predicted bad winter.
The Infection Prevention Society was responding to a warning made by the head of NHS England in September, based on the experiences of countries in the southern hemisphere.
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NHS England’s chief executive said the signs from Australia and New Zealand were a “heavy flu season”, which saw hospitals in those countries “struggling to cope”.
The NHS Employers organisation, which is part of the NHS Confederation, runs the annual “flu fighter” campaign to encourage vaccine uptake among NHS staff, on behalf of the government.
It said 63.2% of frontline staff across all trusts with direct patient contact received the seasonal vaccine in England during the 2016-17 flu season, up from 50.6% in the 2015-16 season.
It particularly noted that this year was the first time its campaign would focus on both health and social care staff.
This is being highlighted as part of its current week-long “jabathon”, from 6-10 November, which aims to encourage conversations on the flu vaccination to inspire more staff to get their jabs.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Prevention is the best line of defence against a flu epidemic and stemming the tide of infections through vaccination is imperative.”