Frontline health workers are being urged to get their free flu jab in order to protect themselves and their patients.
The chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, and other senior NHS staff, have written an open letter to frontline health workers to remind them about the benefits of getting the vaccination, their increased risk of contracting influenza, and the impact of flu-related staff sickness on the heath service at what is usually the busiest time of the year.
NHS England said a 10% increase in vaccination may be associated with as much as a 10% reduction in staff sickness absence.
May said: “Each and every one of us who works or has worked on the front line – whether in hospitals, GP surgeries, ambulance trusts or in the community – knows that every winter flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people.
“Getting your free, quick jab is the single most effective way of preventing flu, so my message to my colleagues is simple: let’s do our duty, and take this easy but important step to protect our patients, and ourselves, this winter.”
Last year a record 70% of doctors, nurses, midwives and other NHS staff who have direct contact with patients received the flu vaccine, with most local NHS employers achieving a vaccination rate of 75% or higher.
NHS England said the most successful NHS trusts encouraged staff uptake of the vaccine through roving clinics and badge stickers to reinforce positive messaging.
Meanwhile, Public Health England has encouraged the most “at risk” groups to get their flu jab, including people with long-term medical conditions and expectant mothers.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and even kill in some cases and getting vaccinated is the best protection against it.
“NHS services across England continue to work hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff getting their free flu jab, and now we’re appealing to the public to ‘Help Us, Help You’ by ensuring that they and their eligible children or relatives get vaccinated, now.”