NHS bosses get tough on doctors who refuse f lu jab
‘Duty to protect patients’
MEDICS who refuse to get a flu jab this winter will have to give a valid reason to NHS bosses.
Doctors and nurses have been told they have a ‘duty’ to have the vaccine, amid concerns that this year’s flu season will be one of the worst on record.
The guidelines have been issued by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’s medical director.
Experts are worried that a particularly aggressive strain of the virus, called H3N2, is on its way from the southern hemisphere.
Australia and New Zealand have just emerged from one of their worst flu outbreaks in 50 years.
From this winter, managers at NHS trusts will be obliged to ask any frontline staff who hasn’t been vaccinated why they refused.
They will compile the reasons and submit them to NHS England, in the hope of improving rates.
In an open letter to staff, Professor Keogh said he was disappointed that a third of NHS workers failed to get the jab last year, despite being at high risk of spreading the virus to patients.
‘Healthcare professionals have a duty to protect their patients and colleagues,’ he added.
At one NHS trust – South London and Maudsley – only 21 per cent of frontline workers bothered to get vaccinated.
Across England some 62.3 per cent of NHS staff received the jab, and this was the highest on record.
Professor 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.’
He also warned of a ‘disappointing variation’ in vaccination rates between hospitals.
The jab is offered free to all NHS frontline staff as well as the over 65s, children aged two to nine, pregnant women and those with a long-term illness.
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, 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 ever before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them from flu.’
The warning came as Jeremy Corbyn revealed yesterday that he has not had the flu jab.
The Labour leader, 68, said it was good for older people to be offered the vaccine but added that it was a matter of individual choice.
No 10 said Prime Minister Theresa May, 61, has had the jab and would encourage everyone eligible to take up the offer.
Speaking after meeting older people at a community centre in Shipley, West Yorkshire, Mr Corbyn said: ‘There is a danger of a very nasty strain of flu coming in, therefore older people taking the flu vaccine is a good thing.’
But when he was asked if he has had the flu jab, he said he had not. He said: ‘I’ve said if people wish to have a flu jab they should, if they think it’s going to help them, yes, they should do it.
‘I think it’s a matter of individual choice because clearly we have to keep ourselves healthy not just for our own wellbeing but for the wellbeing of others around us.’