It follows figures showing that only a third (34.7 per cent (2)) of front-line health workers had seasonal flu vaccinations last year, up from just a quarter the previous year, and this varies between trusts from over 90 per cent to under 10 per cent(3).
Last flu season over 600 deaths in the UK were directly caused by flu and many more were related to it(4).
The National NHS Staff Seasonal Flu Vaccination Campaign aims to protect as many NHS staff in England as possible so that they do not transmit flu to colleagues, their families and vulnerable patients - for whom the virus can be fatal. It also aims to embed staff flu vaccinations in NHS culture.
The campaign will help raise awareness among staff from September and throughout the coming flu season, using widespread communications to explain why getting the jab is important while helping ensure local arrangements are in place for staff to receive jabs quickly, where and whenever they are working.
The NHS Employers organisation is running the campaign on behalf of the Social Partnership Forum, bringing together NHS employers, trade unions and the Department of Health(1).
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said:
"We want to help NHS staff to fight the flu, to protect the services they provide, their families and their patients. Flu has a hugely negative impact on the NHS and is fatal in too many cases.
"By working together we can achieve enough vaccinations to dramatically reduce the current high risk of flu spreading within the NHS.
"This campaign will drive up vaccination rates by explaining that it is safe, showing how important it is and helping local organisations to deliver jabs quickly and conveniently. We want staff vaccinations to eventually become as commonplace in the NHS as washing your hands. In some health trusts over 90 per cent of front-line staff are vaccinated, which is fantastic.
"Organisations throughout England are strongly backing this campaign and we believe staff will come out equally strongly in support, especially given the excellent help and backing being provided by their unions.
"This year's vaccine is the best possible formula to protect people against seasonal flu and H1N1."
Christina McAnea, chair of staff side for the Social Partnership Forum, said:
"UNISON is fully behind the flu vaccine campaign, we want to make sure that staff protect not only themselves, but their families and those in their care. We would urge everyone to be immunised, the vaccine is coming to you where ever you work. Don’t miss the opportunity to stay safe and well this winter."
Katherine Fenton, chief nurse for University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
"We are driving home the message to staff - particularly those working on the frontline - that is vitally important to get vaccinated as early as possible. They should do it to protect not only themselves but also their families and, most importantly, the vulnerable patients they care for."
Department of Health figures(2) released on 6 September showed that vaccination uptake by staff group for 2010/11 was:
- 30 per cent of nurses, including hospital nurses and midwives
- 42.5 per cent of GP practice nurses
- 38.2 per cent of GPs
- 37 per cent of doctors excluding GPs.
Between 12 September 2010 and 4 May 2011 a total of 602 confirmed fatal flu cases from across the UK were reported to the Health Protection Agency, while wider flu-related deaths are estimated to be far higher(4).
NHS staff in England spent an average of 4.24 per cent of their working days off sick between January and March 2011, falling from 4.48 per cent for the same period in 2010. Between October and December 2010 the average was 4.47 per cent, falling from 4.64 per cent for the same period in 2009. This refers to any sickness absence, not only flu(5).
More information is available at www.nhsemployers.org/flu and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/nhsflufighter) and Twitter (@nhsflufighter).