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Care home workers to be offered free flu jab

More than one million care home workers in England will be offered free flu jabs for the first time in a bid to prevent a heavy flu outbreak this winter.

NHS England has set aside £10m to ensure care home workers get a free injection this year.

The move comes after emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumped 16% last year, to 29,000 people.

However, former WHO researcher, Dr Peter Collignon, told The Guardian the strain of vaccine used this year, A(H3N2), 'basically didn’t work and was zero per cent effective for those over 65' – a claim confirmed by the Public Health England figures.

This is down from a 29% success rate in over-65s in 2015/16.

NHS staff already get free flu vaccinations and NHS England wants trusts to make it less disruptive for staff.

However, it also wants trusts to record why anyone chooses to opt out. Last year more than one in three NHS staff failed to get the jab, with just one in five vaccinated in some trusts.

Nurses, together with doctors and other healthcare workers, will also get letters ‘reminding them of their professional duty to protect patients by being vaccinated'.

It warned that many people with flu have no symptoms, so staff who feel fit and healthy can unwittingly infect vulnerable patients.

Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said: ‘The harsh reality is that flu can kill and the best way to protect yourself is to get the jab. With more people eligible than before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them from flu.’

NHS England is anxious to avoid pressures on doctors surgeries and hospital wards as it braces itself for a potentially challenging winter.

The health body said just under 2.9 million bed days were lost to flu last year, an 11% increase on 2015 and 32% higher than in 2012.

It is also expanding the national flu vaccination programme to key groups and aims to reach 21 million people. More maternity services will offer immunisation, and children in year 4, aged eight to nine, will get the vaccination for the first time.

Reception class pupils over four will be able to get the vaccine at school instead of at their GP surgery.

GPs and pharmacies will also be paid for vaccinating morbidly obese patients.