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OPINION

'Nurses are pivotal to staff flu vaccinations being the norm'

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The innovative Flu Fighter campaign has helped increasing numbers of NHS staff to get vaccinated against flu for three consecutive years, thanks to huge help from local staff - and it’s back again this season.

This time it has a subtly different feel. By February 2014 the figures showed something special had happened: for the first time in NHS history, more than half of its frontline staff were choosing to be vaccinated against flu.

It was a small but important milestone towards establishing flu vaccinations as commonplace, like they should be. It’s a change of mindset and, finally, we can say “most” colleagues are getting vaccinated. We now hope this will help make vaccinations feel like the norm and encourage further uptake of these effective and safe antivirals.

Every vaccination does help to protect staff, their families and of course patients - many of whom are vulnerable to flu.

The excellent progress has been recognised across the UK and overseas. Last winter a European Commission report praised the UK as the exception among member states in reporting clear increases in healthcare staff vaccinations, stating: “The United Kingdom experience shows what can be done when there is a focus on this group.”

NHS nurses have played a huge role in that success, making up the majority of NHS staff who are getting hands-on with running Flu Fighter locally. The campaign has already moved into Wales and there is interest from other sectors and countries.

For our nursing colleagues, there is one extra detail: overall, frontline staff vaccinations reached 54.8% last winter but for nurses (apart from GP practice nurses) the uptake was 49.4%. It’s surprising to see nurses slightly below the average, although we do appreciate it can be difficult for busy nurses to find time to think about vaccinations while working.

Nurses are at the frontline of delivering care in the NHS so NHS Employers, which runs Flu Fighter, is very interested in finding out more about what might be stopping nurses from having their flu jabs. We are inviting any nurses to email flufighter@nhsemployers.org and tell us their reasons for having the jab or, if they don’t have it, the reasons why and what would encourage them to have it.

It is ironic that the number of nurses having the vaccination isn’t higher than average, as no one doubts the enormous role nurses are already playing in driving up staff and patient vaccinations. Nurses in wards and within other teams maintain a pivotal role in encouraging and providing vaccinations, as well as providing training for them.

This was reflected in the last annual Flu Fighter awards. Kirsty Morgan, an infection control lead nurse, and James Wenman, a clinical development manager, from South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust won the overall Best Team award. They recruited a team of paramedics who were unable to complete normal frontline duties and trained them to administer flu jabs. This was a brilliant way to vaccinate staff without altering operational capacity.

It is a privilege to see others become enthused by these efforts and we are committed to helping you all make a difference locally. The campaign this year is gaining momentum and I hope you will seek out our free resources online to see what can help you to get involved.


● Follow @NHSflufighter for the latest news. More information is available at #flufighter and www.nhsemployers.org/flu

Ruth Warden is assistant director of employment services at NHS Employers

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