On Monday evening I had dinner surrounded by bugs – pictures of big colourful flu bugs that is. I was attending the annual flu fighter awards, which are organised by NHS Employers on behalf of the government.
I was there because I judged the most creative campaign category and, as a result, also had the pleasure of handing out the trophy to the winning trust.
The award was won by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust for its Star Wars-themed initiative. As well as being creative and effective it certainly appealed to my inner child.
In addition to presenting the award, I spent a pleasant evening talking to shortlisted teams from University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Derby and Burton Foundation Trust.
“Everyone I spoke to at the ceremony was clearly passionate about what they were doing”
Meanwhile, on the train back from Manchester today, I chatted to the flu team from Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare Trust, who happened to be sitting next to me.
Forgive me for being preachy, but I think the flu fighter awards are a great thing. Everyone I spoke to at the ceremony was clearly passionate about what they were doing to protect staff and patients.
It’s one of those things I try to support myself and I have the flu vaccine each year.
Of concern to me – and I think others in the room – was the news at the awards that this will be the last year the campaign will be run by NHS Employers.
Next year’s frontline healthcare worker flu vaccination campaign is to become part of NHS England’s and Public Health England’s winter campaign. I hope all the good work and energy over the last eight years of the flu fighter campaign is not lost in this change – and that the awards are maintained to recognise and share best practice in this important campaign.
However, I urge everyone to keep supporting the campaign in whatever its future guise turns out to be and to keep getting vaccinated or to consider doing so if you have not before.
Let’s face it, with the discredited claims about MMR in the late 1990s and now the rise of so-called anti-vaxxers in the US and elsewhere, nurses working in immunisation – mostly primary care and occupational health – have had it hard.
Plus, giving people the flu vaccine all day, every day for several months must be quite a task for those involved.
Over the past eight years, the flu fighter campaign has helped trusts in England to double their vaccine uptake rates among frontline healthcare staff from 34.7% in 2010-11 to 68.7% in 2017-18.
“NHS England and Public Health England must not drop the ball on this”
The latest provisional uptake figures show that 70.3%, or 739,187 frontline healthcare workers, have been vaccinated so far during the 2018-19 flu season – the highest uptake to date.
However, as someone I spoke to yesterday noted, we still have a “long way to go”. NHS England and Public Health England must not drop the ball on this.
But for now, here’s to all those who were shortlisted or won a flu fighter award this year, and also to everyone involved in the campaign around the country over the past eight years. And thanks, of course, to everyone who has the jab.