Special efforts should be made to increase the uptake of this year’s influenza vaccine amongst health and social care workers, says one of the UK’s leading medical bodies. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow says that getting more staff immunised is vital to ensuring that the NHS can effectively cope with the expected increase in demand that the health service will face this winter. The call comes the week after the UK government announced that it was to extend its flu immunisation scheme to include all those over 50, and the publication of a report by the Academy of Medical Sciences which identified a range of challenges likely to face the health and care system this winter, including:
- A large resurgence of COVID-19 nationally, with local or regional epidemics.
- Disruption of the health and social care systems
- A backlog of non-COVID-19 care
- A possible influenza epidemic
Issuing the call, College President Professor Jackie Taylor said:
“If we’re to make sure our health service is ready for next winter we need to start to plan now.
“Over the past few years the uptake of the annual influenza immunisation programme amongst NHS staff has been as low as 40-60 percent. If we’re to continue to provide the best service for patients we need to ensure that we increase the proportion of health service staff that receive this vital protection. This must mean that we should aim for everyone in the NHS, from doctors and nurses to cleaners and hospital porters, to be immunised.
“At the same time, we need another extra effort to ensure that social care staff are not left behind in this effort. It’s vital that we maintain capacity in this service if we’re to keep patients safe. That’s why we’re calling on governments and NHS organisations across the UK to also include all those who work in care homes in their flu vaccination plans for this year.
“We can’t have healthy patients without healthy staff across the NHS and social care service. If we expect our older patients and those with other underlying health risks to have early influenza immunisation, it is reasonable to ask health and care staff to be similarly protected. I’d encourage all workers to make plans now to get their ‘flu jab this year.”