NHS in Wales boosts fight against flu

Flu mugs

01 / 11 / 2013 Midnight

The NHS in Wales is taking extra measures to protect its staff and patients from flu this winter.
A campaign called ‘flu fighter’ is being rolled-out throughout Wales after ongoing success in England, where it has helped increase frontline staff vaccinations in the NHS by 108,000 (to 467,000 staff) between 2011 and 2013 (1).

It aims to help sustain the momentum of NHS staff vaccinations in Wales, which have increased in most areas year-on-year and were received by 35.5 per cent of staff for winter 2012/13 (2).

Hospitals and other NHS organisations throughout Wales will receive expert advice and attractive resources from NHS Employers, which runs the campaign. These are tailored to raise local awareness and to help vaccinations be provided effectively.

Staff flu vaccinations are not mandatory so raising awareness is crucial for combating the virus, which can be fatal to vulnerable patients and disruptive to NHS staff and services.

Flu fighter has traditionally led to lively and quirky staff-led campaigns. Organisations in Wales appear keen to embrace this tradition.

The campaign in Wales follows agreement between Public Heath Wales and NHS Employers, aiming to ensure it meets the specific needs of Welsh healthcare. It will expand its support throughout Wales and provide materials in Welsh and English language, promoting vaccinations to all NHS staff.

The flu season was mild last year but the number of patients with flu who required intensive treatment still increased and, tragically, 107 of those patients (11.3 per cent) in the UK died from it (2).

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said:

“The NHS in Wales has always been innovative and I’m convinced staff will embrace the creative side of flu fighter, maybe even raising the bar for UK neighbours. If we get it right, more staff than ever before will be protected. We know NHS staff have great ideas on increasing the uptake of flu jabs and inventions like Aintree University Hospital’s popular ‘jab at the hut’ tent deserve to be imitated. I'm really looking forward to seeing the creativity flow in Wales!
“Flu is deadly and every year it kills people from vulnerable groups including the sick, the elderly and young children. Others who contract the virus often become NHS patients, so by getting vaccinated staff are protecting their patients, their families and themselves.”

Dr Richard Roberts, head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:

”We are very pleased to be working with NHS Employers to deliver the flu fighter campaign in Wales for the first time. Health Boards and trusts have been making steady progress in improving staff uptake of flu vaccine over several years, and the flu fighter stickers, posters and flyers and social media activities will help boost those efforts. We hope that many more staff will be convinced that annual flu vaccination will help protect themselves and those they care for from flu.”

NHS Employers has continued to use social media to increase awareness of the campaign this year, successfully encouraging trusts to embed #flufighter into flu conversations across the Twitter network. The social media presence of the campaign continues to encourage feedback from employers and staff about the flu vaccination. More information is available at www.nhsemployers.org/flu and also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/nhsflufighter) and Twitter (@NHSFlufighter).

Notes to Editors

(1) The number of frontline staff in England vaccinated in 2010/11 was 359,080 (34.7 per cent) and this increased to 466,601 (45.6 per cent) by 2012/13. ‘Seasonal influenza vaccine uptake amongst frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in England. Winter season 2012/13’ 

(2) Out of 80,394 NHS staff under the care of Health Board Occupational Health departments in Wales, 28,559 (35.5 per cent) were immunised against influenza during 2012/13, an increase of 4.6 per cent from the 2011/12 season. More statistics, including by staff group, are available in ‘Seasonal Influenza vaccine uptake in Wales - 2012/13’. 

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