Derriford Hospital staff could be forced to have flu injections

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The NHS wants all front-line healthcare workers to have a flu jab this winter, warning trusts that staff refusing the vaccine could be banned from treating patients.

Last winter almost a third of front-line NHS workers at the Plymouth Hospitals Trust were not vaccinated – during the worst flu season in a decade.

Public Health England figures reveal that 1,609 front-line healthcare workers at the Plymouth Hospitals Trust did not get the flu vaccine between September 2017 and February 2018.

Of the 5,022 doctors, nurses, clinical staff and support workers at the trust with direct patient contact, 3,413 did get the vaccine – an uptake rate of 68 per cent.

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That’s just below the England average of 69 [per cent, but far behind targets.

In a letter to trusts earlier this month, the NHS praised trusts which surpassed 90 per cent coverage last year.

However, vaccine uptake varied considerably between trusts. Wye Valley Trust in Herefordshire and East Lancashire Hospital Trust reported the highest rates, with 92 per cent of front-line workers vaccinated. At the Essex Partnership University Trust, the uptake was just 39 per cent.

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The NHS said making vaccination “near universal” is to protect patients in higher-risk clinical environments, like neonatal intensive care and cancer wards, and limit their exposure to unvaccinated staff.

Up to 50 per cent of people with the flu may not even know they have it – but for patients with weakened immune systems or respiratory problems, the flu can be life-threatening.

The NHS said that trusts should “take appropriate steps to maintain the safety of the service”, including transferring unvaccinated workers away from high-risk patients.

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It outlined several reasons why healthcare workers with direct patient contact should be vaccinated, including recent NICE guidelines outlining a link between lower rates of staff vaccination and increased patient death.

It also said that flu-related staff sickness puts pressure on other staff members.

Public service trade union Unison, which represents healthcare workers, said that the NHS should encourage staff to get the flu jab, but not make it compulsory.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “We need to understand why vaccination rates vary so much between different health organisations.

“Some struggle to get teams who are trained to administer the jab to staff working in remote or varied locations.”

She added: “Healthcare staff may choose not to get the jab for fear of allergic reactions, or a phobia around needles.”

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Chief nurse for NHS England Professor Jane Cummings said that “myths” persist around the flu vaccine, with the “big one” being that it gives people the flu.

She said: “By getting vaccinated against flu, healthcare workers can protect themselves, their families, colleagues and patients, making sure we have a healthy workforce and helping to reduce the pressure on services over winter.”

Public Health England said that it encourages action from professional health bodies to increase vaccine uptake.

PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: “There is a dual responsibility on trusts and healthcare workers to get rates as high as possible.”

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Who is eligible for a free flu jab and why?

  • People aged 65 and over – You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2016-17) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2017 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1952. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2017, you do qualify. It’s free because you need it. Older people are one of the groups that are more vulnerable to the effects of flu.
  • People with Long Term Health Conditions – COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes; heart kidney or liver disease or have suffered a stroke, flu on top of health conditions like these can easily develop into something very serious and could land you in hospital. Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. It’s free because you need it.
  • Carers – If you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may be eligible for the free flu jab, speak to your GP.
  • Pregnant women – The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby. You may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill as a result of flu.
  • Children aged two, three and four on August 31 2016 – that is, children born between September 1 2011 and August 31 2014 – The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others.
  • Children in school years one, two and three – The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others.

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Source : https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/health/flu-jab-hospital-staff-derriford-2009439