Should NHS workers be made to have a flu jab to protect patients?
PUBLISHED: 11:10 02 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 02 December 2017
NHS bosses in Ipswich are struggling to convince their own staff to have a flu jab, despite a heightened campaign this year encouraging the public to get vaccinated.
Health service workers are eligible for a free injection to protect patients, but uptake at Ipswich Hospital is currently at 52%, which is above the national average of 46% for acute trusts but below the target of 70%.
Trust figures reveal sickness rates at the hospital have risen to their highest level since January, with one of the top reasons listed as “cold/cough/flu”.
Speaking at a meeting of the hospital’s board members on Thursday, Clare Edmondson, director of human resources, said: “We have had a lot of push back from staff saying we have already been asked six times and the answer is still no.”
Ms Edmondson said employees were being offered incentives, such as a breakfast at the beginning or end of a shift, to try and entice them to get the jab.
She added: “Largely people are saying the research doesn’t support it or it’s made them feel unwell previously. Those are the two primary reasons. Or it’s personal choice therefore I’m not going to do it.
“That’s been equal in nursing and medical staff.
“We tend to find it in clusters. Where a consultant has said [they do not want the flu jab] and made it known in their area, the rest of the staff will follow.”
Karen Lough, head of operations for surgery, added: “I have heard medical staff advise people not to have it.”
Non-executive director Laurence Collins said: “We had a lot of debate about that and how we can increase the numbers but there was a recognition that at the end of the day you can damage a campaign by being over encouraging.”
Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, urged all those eligible for a free flu jab to take up the opportunity. He added: “Flu can be serious, particularly to those with long term health conditions where complications from flu can result in admission to hospital. NHS staff are offered the vaccination to reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted and NHS England have recently announced that this year care home staff will also be eligible for free flu vaccination. Vaccination will be beneficial to the staff and also their clients and patients.”
Groups eligible for a free flu jab include everyone aged 65 and over, people with particular long-term medical conditions, young children, carers, pregnant women and health service workers.
To arrange to have a flu vaccination, members of the public should contact their GP.
This year, NHS bosses have intensified their campaign to encourage people to take up the offer amid fears of a severe flu outbreak this winter.
Australia suffered its worse flu epidemic on record in 2017 and leaders are worried this could be reflected in the UK due to the global circulation of the virus.
For many people, a bout of flu will result in symptoms such as headaches, aches, pains and tiredness.
However, for people in ‘at-risk’ groups flu can have devastating consequences, leading to existing health conditions getting worse, the development of an illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia, or even death.