Flu fighter: push to vaccinate more NHS staff in the community: with the number of health workers vaccinated each year languishing, NHS employers, the dh and health unions have come together with a seasonal flu vaccination campaign to encourage uptake.Employers, unions and the Department of Health (DH) have joined forces to launch the first ever national flu vaccination campaign for frontline NHS workers. It aims to significantly increase staff vaccinations to protect staff, their families and patients from infection.
Part of this is ensuring that workers in the community benefit from improved access to seasonal flu vaccinations and information about them.
The Flu Fighters campaign has given extensive guidance to flu leads in trusts throughout England, encouraging them to set up additional clinics in drop-in centres, including at locations near community-based staff and with a focus on allowing staff to 'drop in' at times that suit them (see Box 1).
The emphasis is on helping bring the vaccine to staff rather than staff to the vaccine, increasing efficiency and minimising the time staff spend away from their work. Trusts are also being advised on how best to use electronic and social media, from Twitter to text messaging and emails, to reach workers wherever they may be (see Box 2).
Resources at your fingertips
Your trust received a supply of posters, leaflets and stickers in September, as well as our Flu Fighter magazine that explains the benefits of vaccination, helps to dispel myths and encourages employees to 'spread the word, not the virus and protect themselves, their families and their patients'.
Your local GP practice can either download all of the information that they need from the Flu Fighter website (www.nhsemployers.org/flu), or request more from their primary care trust.
Hospital and community staff will not be encouraged to receive vaccines directly through their GPs, since they will not have been included in the GP's calculations for their supply of vaccines. However, GP practices are encouraged to provide their own staff with jabs.
NHS trusts across England, the NHS trade unions and medical Royal Colleges are all strongly backing this campaign, and we believe staff will come out equally strongly in support.
Improving uptake, avoiding impact
DH figures show that only about one-third (34.7%) of frontline health workers had seasonal flu vaccinations last year, up from just a quarter the previous year.
The uptake was only 30% for nursing staff last season, apart from those in GP practices, whose uptake was 42.5%. There is a clear need for vaccination uptake to be higher. One million patients pass through the NHS every 36 hours and flu can be fatal to many of them. It is important that the staff that they are coming into contact with are not becoming ill from flu or transmitting it to them.
Box 1. General advice on how trusts can enhance access to jabs * Setting up clinics in staff rooms or areas close to wards * Setting up in the staff canteen * Holding drop-in clinics in main staff entrances, especially at times staff are starting and finishing work offering vaccinations out of hours * Sending vaccinators to wards and departments to catch staff who are traditionally difficult to access, for example accident and emergency staff * Running clinics and drop-in centres across other sites * Running clinics at places you are likely to find community-based staff * Offering a free cup of tea and biscuit to all staff who attend to get vaccinated * Allowing staff to 'drop in' to a clinic at any time that suits them * Using peer vaccinators to vaccinate colleagues * Training ward managers to vaccinate their own staff (or, if this poses an issue, to swap with another manager and vaccinate their staff)
According to the Health Protection Agency, over 600 deaths in the UK last flu season were directly caused by flu and more were related to it.
Flu also has a major impact on the ability of the NHS to run a healthy workforce. Sickness among NHS staff increases during the flu season, with over 4% off sick at any one time. Staff do not want to be laying sick in bed. They want to be fit and giving excellent care for clients and patients.
NHS Employers is running the campaign on behalf of the Social Partnership Forum, which brings together NHS employers, trade unions and the DH to discuss, debate and involve partners in policy changes that affect the workforce.
It is this combination of partners that gives this campaign such strength and unity. Together, we want to see staff vaccinations eventually become as commonplace in the NHS as washing your hands or getting changed into clean clothes.
Box 2. Flu Fighter links * NHS employers website: www.nhsemployers.org/flu * Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nhsflufighter * Follow on Twitter: @nhsflufighter * Linkedin page: www.linkedin.com/company/nhs-employers
RELATED ARTICLE: New pay freezes are unacceptable.
This year's NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) process is about to begin and unions are preparing to submit evidence.
Each year, unions and NHS employers submit evidence to the PRB in a three-stage evidence process that runs until November. At the end of this process, the PRB publishes recommendations for NHS pay to the government.
Unite has drafted its initial submission to the PRB, as well as feeding into the joint staff-side evidence, but it is clear that this process is not going to be easy this year.
A second year of pay freezes
The government has already announced a second year of pay freezes for those workers above spine point 15, severely limiting the scope and independence of the review body.
Even with a repeat of last year's 250 [pounds sterling] uplift for people earning under 21 000 [pounds sterling], NHS workers will all continue to experience real-term pay cuts (ie pay freezes or increases below inflation).
The consequences of rising inflation
Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation has not been lower than 4.4% for more than a year and these high levels of inflation are continuing to erode earnings for NHS staff, with RPI inflations standing at 17 times the value of most recent pay awards. Rising inflation and the pay freezes will mean that a typical band 5 worker at the top of their scale has sacrificed 1000 [pounds sterling] in earning since 2011, and this could be as much as 3000 [pounds sterling] if inflation continues as predicted.
In real terms, the value of an average NHS full-time salary is at its lowest level for 11 years.
Unite will be making it clear that this kind of cut to staff salaries is not acceptable or sustainable.
The NHS workforce is already under siege from cuts to NHS budgets, unprecedented restructuring through the Health and Social Care Bill, as well as attacks on pensions and other terms and conditions. Morale is low and services are under enormous strain--another pay cut may be the final straw.
Unite is therefore calling for the PRB to be bold, reassert its independent role and recommend that workers receive a decent increase of RPI inflation at the very least.
Unite research officer
Director, NHS Employers