This week I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about flu. Whilst it has been relatively mild and we are yet to see any widespread flu outbreaks, planning for winter and the associated pressures has been ongoing for some time, and planning to avoid flu illness and infection for Team ASPH, patients and carers, is very much a part of this.
The ASPH seasonal flu campaign began a couple of weeks ago and we’ve had a really positive start with over 1060 vaccines already given - this is a fantastic initial uptake of colleagues who’ve been vaccinated. This year we have 25 Peer Vaccinators from various divisions who have been doing a really great job of visiting colleagues within their work areas, making it as quick and efficient as possible for staff to be vaccinated. In addition to this, Occupational Health also launched the drop in flu clinic last Monday which has been taking place at St Peter’s and will be at Ashford this week.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that as healthcare professionals we take the opportunity to have the vaccine, not only to protect ourselves, but our patients, family and friends. Whilst some people may not feel the need to be vaccinated, there are many groups who are at risk of flu turning into something more serious and potentially life threatening; pregnant women, newborn babies, young children, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. As healthcare workers it is possible that we’ll come into contact with all of these groups, so we have a responsibility to ensure we don’t spread flu to others who may not be as able to fight it. ASPH’s Medical Director, David Fluck, spoke about the importance of being vaccinated on BBC Radio Surrey last week - if you’d like to listen back the link is here (if you’d like to skip straight to David’s part it’s at 1hr 12mins)
Last year Team ASPH did amazingly, achieving the target of vaccinating 75% of frontline staff, an increase of 5% on the previous year. This fantastic accomplishment really made a difference to patients and team in the hospital throughout winter, as despite having high numbers of flu patients in the hospital we didn’t have an outbreak, which reinforced our ability to deliver safe care and to be resilient in the face of the significant demand we saw over the winter period. Whilst this is all really positive, there is even more work to do this year, with NHS Trusts being given an ambitious goal to reach 100% with a target to vaccinate 80% of frontline staff. We need everyone’s help to reach this!
Here are further reasons why we should all have the seasonal flu jab this year:
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines highlight a correlation between lower rates of staff vaccination and increased patient deaths.
- Up to 50% of confirmed flu infections are subclinical (i.e. asymptomatic). Unvaccinated, asymptomatic (but nevertheless infected) staff may pass on the virus to vulnerable patients and colleagues.
- Flu-related staff sickness affects service delivery; impacting on patients and on other staff – recently published evidence suggests a 10% increase in vaccination may be associated with as much as a 10% fall in sickness absence.
- Patients feel safer and are more likely to get vaccinated when they know NHS staff are vaccinated.
If you haven’t already done so, please arrange to have your flu jab as soon as possible and take the personal and professional responsibility to protect yourself, your loved ones and of course patients and carers.
Wishing you all a good week ahead.
With best wishes