England’s chief nursing officer Ruth May has called on NHS frontline workers to take up their free flu jab and remind their patients to get the vaccine.
Ms May joined other heads of professions in writing an open letter urging NHS staff to fulfil their ‘duty’ by taking up the flu vaccine through their employer this winter.
The letter warned that it is possible to have and pass on the virus unaware as more than half of infections bring mild or no symptoms.
It continued: ‘As we all know, flu can have serious and even fatal consequences, especially for the most vulnerable patients, such as young children, pregnant women and the elderly.’
Those behind the vaccination drive said that flu-related staff sickness can affect services at what can be the busiest time of the year, with frontline staff at a higher risk of catching flu due to contact with their patients.
Ms May, who is spearheading the vaccination drive, 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.’
The open letter is also signed by NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, chief allied health professions officer Suzanne Rastrick, chief midwifery officer Professor Jaqueline Dunkley-Bent and chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge.
Last year, a record 70% of nurses, midwives and other NHS staff who have direct contact with patients took up the vaccine, with most local NHS employers achieving 75% or higher.
Overall, vaccination uptake levels for staff has increased every year since 2015/16, but there can be variation from trust to trust.
Organisations with the lowest uptake levels last winter have been required to buddy up with a higher-performing trust.