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NHS doctors have a ‘professional duty’ to get the flu jab

 
  • Anyone who declines it will be told to provide a valid reason to NHS bosses
  • The guidelines have been issued by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director
  • It comes amid concerns this winter’s flu season will be one of the worst ever
  • Experts are worried an aggressive strain of the virus is on its way from Australia

Sophie Borland Health Editor For The Daily Mail

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Doctors and nurses have been told they have a ‘professional duty’ to get the flu jab in anticipation of one of the worst ever outbreaks.

Anyone who declines the vaccine will be told to provide a valid reason to NHS bosses, who will be compiling a list.

The guidelines have been issued by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’ medical director, amid concerns that this winter’s flu season will be one of the worst on record.

Experts are worried that an aggressive strain of the virus, known as H3N2, is on its way from the Southern Hemisphere.

Any doctor or nurse who declines the vaccine will be told to provide a valid reason to NHS bosses, who will be compiling a list

Any doctor or nurse who declines the vaccine will be told to provide a valid reason to NHS bosses, who will be compiling a list

Any doctor or nurse who declines the vaccine will be told to provide a valid reason to NHS bosses, who will be compiling a list

Australia and New Zealand have just emerged from one of their worst flu outbreaks in 50 years and the elderly and young children were most at risk.

Professor Keogh said he was disappointed that a third of NHS staff failed to get the flu vaccine last year despite being at high risk of catching the virus and spreading it to patients.

At one NHS trust – South London and the Maudsley, which specialises in mental healthcare – only 21 per cent of frontline workers bothered to get vaccinated.

Across England some 62.3 per cent of frontline workers were vaccinated, and this was the highest on record.

DREADED AUSSIE FLU

Australia – whose winter occurs during our summer – had one of its worst outbreaks on record, with two and a half times the normal number of cases.

Official figures are yet to confirm how many people have lost their lives to this year’s outbreak, but 370 reported deaths.

The flu season in the UK and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere tends to mirror what has happened in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.

The same strains of the virus will circulate north in time for the British flu season, which typically begins in November and lasts until March.

There are concerns the vaccine, made by World Health Organisation scientists, will prove to be ineffective as it will not match the H3N2 strain.

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.’

In an open letter to NHS staff, he warned of a ‘disappointing variation’ in vaccination rates between hospitals.

‘Healthcare professionals have a duty to protect their patients and colleagues.’ He added.

From this winter, managers at NHS trusts will be obliged to ask any staff who hasn’t been vaccinated why they refused.

They will compile a list of these reasons and submit them to NHS England, in the hope of improving vaccination rates in future.

The flu vaccine is offered to free to all NHS staff as well as the over 65s, children aged 2 to 9, pregnant women and anyone 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. Taking a few minutes to get the jab could save your life this winter.’

WHERE CAN YOU GET THE FLU JAB?

Flu can be a serious illness. If you become very ill with it, it can cause complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle, and kidney failure.

People at most risk of serious illness or death if they get flu are offered the vaccine on the NHS. Ideally you should have this before the end of December, when flu peaks (it takes about two weeks after the jab for antibodies to develop completely).

At-risk groups include anyone aged 65 and over; people living in long-stay residential care homes; carers and pregnant women.

The vaccine is also offered to anyone aged six months to 65 years with certain conditions, such as diabetes.

It is available via your GP’s surgery.

All children aged two to eleven (on August 31, 2017) are also offered the vaccine as a nasal spray. The UK introduced the child vaccination programme in 2013 — last year, the vaccine had 66 per cent effectiveness. Australia does not have a similar programme.

If you don’t qualify to have the jab on the NHS, you can pay to get it at a pharmacy.

Well Pharmacy charges £9 to £14 (depending on the number of strains in the vaccine), Superdrug from £9.99, Lloyds Pharmacy £10, Boots £12.99, and Tesco £9.

Older children who fall outside the NHS scheme can get the nasal spray vaccine from some pharmacies such as Well (£23 for those aged between two and 18; this may involve a second dose at least four weeks later for another £23) and the injection for those 12 and over for £9.

Boots offers the jab to those aged 16 and over at £12.99. Tesco offers it to those 12 and over at £9. 

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