Practice-level flu data used to counter poor jab uptake

Data on flu jab uptake is being fed back to practices to help improve vaccination levels before the height of the flu season, the DoH has revealed.

Uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine among at-risk under-65s is currently around 2.5% lower than it was this time last year.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, the DoH's director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury said the most effective way to raise uptake was to contact unvaccinated individuals and invite them to have jabs.

Asked by GP about the use of practice-level data, Professor Salisbury said the DoH had asked PCTs to compare uptake across local practices.

‘This is performance management, going right the way from national figures down to the individual contributor,’ he said. ‘We’ve asked the local PCT coordinators to work with their practices, particularly those who have not done as well as some of their neighbours.’

Professor Salisbury said this new work had been specifically undertaken in time for it to have a meaningful effect on uptake levels.

‘We are doing it specifically this year whilst there is time in the system,’ he said. ‘The whole point about this is that this is almost prospective.

‘We’re getting it as it happens and allowing identification of performance so that it can be improved, rather than waiting until six months after the vaccination season and then saying "Isn’t it a shame that they weren’t quite as good there?".’

Labour’s shadow health secretary John Healey said the government had failed to make sure sound advice about the importance of flu vaccination has been widely given to the public. He echoed the GPC’s criticism of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s decision to axe the national flu vaccine awareness campaign.

Mr Healey said the health secretary had ‘taken his eye off the ball’. ‘He’s been obsessed only with internal NHS reorganisation,’ he said. ‘He’s lost sight of patients. He’s failed to ensure that those known to be most vulnerable have been properly informed about the risks and encouraged to get the flu jab for protection.’

He added: ‘He’s dismantling the NHS agencies that do most to prevent, assess and manage the spread of flu, which raises additional concerns about how well prepared the NHS is for this escalating outbreak of winter flu and whether the service has the capacity to cope, especially over the holiday period in severe winter weather.

‘We need Secretary of State for Health, not a Secretary of State for NHS reorganisation.’

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