Protect yourself. Protect your patients. Have a flu vaccination

The below letter has been signed by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director of NHS England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, Susanne Rastrick, Chief allied Health Professions Officer for NHE England, Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director of Public Health England, Dr Kathy McLean Executive Medical Director of NHS Improvement, Ruth May Executive Director of Nursing NHS Improvement, Professor Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse of Public Health England.

As winter approaches it is worth reminding ourselves that flu can have serious and even fatal consequences, especially for vulnerable patients. We therefore have a programme to ensure that people at risk of suffering the most serious consequences are vaccinated against flu. This includes those aged 65 or over, those aged 6 months to 64 in clinical risk groups, pregnant women, those living in residential and nursing homes, and carers. We are also vaccinating children aged 2 to 8 for their own protection and to reduce spread in the population.

Many of you will have seen the news from Australia and New Zealand that they are experiencing their worst flu season in many years. Whilst it is too early to conclude that the UK will experience similar challenges, it provides a timely reminder of the additional pressure that hospitals and GPs could be put under in the near future, and the importance of taking preventative action.

Healthcare workers, as members of the general population, are susceptible to flu. When coupled with the potential for a third of flu cases being transmitted by asymptomatic individuals it means patients are at particular risk. Last year saw the highest ever vaccination rate for frontline healthcare workers since the start of the programme in 2002, with almost two-thirds of staff vaccinated. But this belies massive differences between trusts from over 90% to below 20%, a disappointing variation.

This means that one third of healthcare workers were either not offered or chose not to be vaccinated. Healthcare professionals have a duty to protect their patients and colleagues. This is why NHS organisations have been asked to ensure that it is easy for their staff to be vaccinated so that having your vaccination is the default position, and that not being vaccinated is a conscious, considered decision by an individual.

We urge all healthcare professionals to have the vaccination unless it is contraindicated in order to help reduce the risk of flu to patients and other staff.

For more information about the national seasonal flu campaign for frontline healthcare workers visit www.nhsemployers.org/flumatters.

Published 7th December, 2017

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