Almost 60 per cent of NHS frontline staff did not have the swine flu jab over the winter, despite a strong campaign to encourage nurses and other NHS workers to get vaccinated.
Department of Health figures show that 40.4 per cent of healthcare workers were given the H1N1 swine influenza jab this winter, and a letter jointly signed by Chief Nursing Officer Dame Christine Beasley, has admitted: “We need to see further improvement in increasing their immunisation rates”.
Figures are not yet available on take up amongst individual professions but the overall results tally closely with a Nursing Times survey last August which found a third of nurses were not planning to have the vaccine.
Dame Christine’s letter to directors of nursing, lead nurses at PCTs and others, said the CNO, the Chief Medical Officer and others are working on a report for NHS Trusts that will include the lessons learned from last year’s swine flu vaccination programme.
Royal College of Nursing head of nursing Steve Jamieson, said the RCN and other organisations had worked hard to encourage nurses to have the jab, and he said the number of staff who had been vaccinated was “a success”, but admitted that he hoped for a higher uptake if the vaccine was required again.
“My guess would be that a large proportion of these healthcare workers who have been vaccinated will be nurses,” he said.
“There was lots of scaremongering about the vaccine not being tested, but we know that the number of people with side effects was very low. We spent a lot of time letting members know the importance of receiving the jab for themselves and for their patients.”