Public health bodies have teamed up to launch a raft of measures aimed at boosting flu jab uptake – including addressing uptake issues among healthcare staff – alongside contingency plans to deal with pressures on frontline services this winter.

NHS England teamed up with Public Health England, the Department of Health and NHS Improvement to develop the measures, which include:

  • Plan to expand flu jab uptake
    Providing free flu vaccines for hundreds of care home staff at a cost of up to £10 million, as well as increasing the number of jabs for young children in schools and vulnerable people
  • Directing NHS trusts to ensure they make vaccines readily available to staff and record why those who choose to opt out of the programme do so
  • Writing to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers reminding them of their professional duty to protect patients by being vaccinated
  • Setting up a new National Emergency Pressure Panel to provide independent clinical advice on system risk and an appropriate regional and national response
  • An expansion in training – described as the ‘biggest ever’ – for A&E consultants over the next four years.

NHS England says that while record numbers of NHS staff were vaccinated in 2016, one in three still failed to do so – with the figure being as low as one in five in some trusts.

NHS England national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: “This is a timely reminder to employers and staff that we all have a professional responsibility to protect ourselves, and by doing so better protect our patients and reducing the pressure on services.”

Planned expansions to the national flu vaccination programme for key groups include:

  • Children in school year 4 (aged eight to nine years old) will be offered the vaccine for the first time in addition to years 1-3
  • Children over age 4 in reception classes can get their vaccine in school instead of by their GP
  • More maternity services will offer immunisation to pregnant women
  • GPs and pharmacies will now be paid for vaccinating the morbidly obese.

PHE medical director, professor Paul Cosford, said: “This year we are offering the nasal spray vaccine to more children than ever. Ensuring children get vaccinated is extremely important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop them spreading it to vulnerable groups they come into contact with.

“For someone with a long-term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious. We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.”

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