GPs prepare for flu workload rise as vaccination campaign begins

GPs are braced for an influx of patients as Public Health England (PHE) launched its media drive to promote uptake of the winter flu vaccine in high-risk groups this week.

Flu jab: vaccination campaign underway (Photo: Jim Varney)

The campaign, which encourages patients particularly at risk from the virus to receive their free influenza vaccine, will run for four weeks from 6 October.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey welcomed the timing of the campaign, which he praised for coinciding with 'the time when GPs are encouraging patients to attend their flu clinics’.

PHE has come under fire in previous years for pushing the campaign too late or not at all, potentially to the detriment of patient health and a drop in uptake of the vaccine.

The campaign, which calls on patients to book an appointment with their GP, focuses on parents of children aged two to four, pregnant women and people with long-term conditions, particularly chronic respiratory conditions.

Just 52% uptake

An average of 8,000 deaths a year are thought to be as a result of flu. People with an underlying condition are 11 times more likely to die from the disease than those who do not have an underlying condition.

But, despite the risks, only 52% of the eligible population aged six months to 65 years old received a vaccination last winter.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘We would encourage patients who are eligible for a flu vaccine to make an appointment with their GP and attend their flu clinic as soon as possible. We have had a very mild 12 months, but that’s not necessarily going to be the case going forward, so we would hope as many patients as possible will be protected.’

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: ‘It is essential that people take steps to protect themselves during the winter months. I would urge those who are offered the free flu vaccination to visit their GP early in the flu season. I also urge all health care workers to make sure they are vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients and their families.’

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