DH demands rise in GP uptake of flu jabs

The DH is demanding higher flu jab uptake among health workers as well as the public this winter, but will not run a flu advertising campaign.

Flu: DH has relaunched campaign to vaccinate NHS staff
Flu: DH has relaunched campaign to vaccinate NHS staff

Deputy NHS chief executive David Flory said the DH ‘expects much higher uptake of flu vaccine among front line staff’ this winter.

Last year, 45% of all front line healthcare workers and 51% of GPs received the vaccine, but this varied from 10% to 90% across PCTs.

The DH has already said that the NHS should aim to vaccinate 70% of people under 65 who are at-risk from flu including pregnant women.

This is a rise from 60% last year and is a step towards the DH target of 75% for 2013/14.

The NHS 'Flu Fighter' campaign will run again this winter, highlighting the need for GPs and other healthcare professionals to get vaccinated. But in a letter to the NHS, Dr Flory confirmed there would be no national advertisement campaign for flu aimed at the general public this winter.

Instead, efforts to boost uptake to meet DH targets will rely on local initiatives. 'SHAs may wish to support NHS organisations in finding opportunities to promote the immunisation programme to increase uptake in their areas,' he said.

Dr Flory warned against underestimating the impact of the virus this winter following low levels of flu activity last year. 'We should in no way look upon this as a reason to be complacent,' he said.

The Flu Fighters campaign, run by NHS Employers, was relaunched on Thursday will encourage NHS workers to have the jab. Last year it led to an extra 100,000 staff being vaccinated.

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: 'Under half of frontline NHS staff currently receive a flu jab and everyone knows we can do better.

'Flu can take a huge toll on the NHS and patients over the winter months. There can be absolutely no doubt that making preparations now to vaccinate NHS staff is one of the best ways to keep it away from the public, and ensure we have staff at work at what is always a busy time.'

The 70% target for uptake of flu vaccination among the public was set by England's CMO Dame Sally Davies in May. Last winter, just 51.6% of people at risk of flu aged under 65 were vaccinated.

Uptake among pregnant women was just 27.4%, although uptake reached 74% among the over-65s.

Vaccine uptake among healthcare staff rose from 35% in 2010/11 to 45% in 2011/12, but uptake is 'still too low' and must improve, the CMO has said.

In July, the DH confirmed that up to 9m school-age children aged two to 17 will receive the vaccine from 2014.

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