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Could all NHS staff be forced to have the flu jab? Britain's top doctor calls for 'serious debate' following outbreak of 'Aussie' virus across the UK

Posted on 8/01/2018 by David Burgess

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  • National medical director of NHS England said patients are being put at risk
  • Thousands of healthcare workers have not been vaccinated with the flu jab
  • Latest official figures show 40 percent of frontline NHS staff are not vaccinated  
  • The number of patients admitted to hospital with flu has also trebled in a week

The country’s top doctor has called for a ‘serious debate’ over whether NHS staff should be forced to have the flu jab.

Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director of NHS England, said thousands of healthcare workers were unwittingly putting patients and their own families at risk.

Latest official figures show that 40 per cent of frontline staff have not been vaccinated. If the flu jab were made compulsory, employees who refused it could be sacked.

Figures have shown the number of patients admitted to hospital with flu has trebled in a week – and are twice as high compared to this time last year.

The country’s top doctor has called for a ‘serious debate’ over whether NHS staff should be forced to have the flu jab

Sir Bruce, a former heart surgeon, said: ‘I think a serious debate around mandatory flu vaccination is inevitable before next winter.

‘Flu is a double whammy for the NHS, increasing the number of patients and putting staff out of action, but as a third of people with the virus do not know they are carrying it staff may not know they are putting patients, colleagues and their own families at risk.

People who get the flu jab every year have fewer hospital admissions 

People who get the flu jab every year have fewer hospital admissions and less severe symptoms, a study found. 

The Institute of Public Health in Pamplona found that among over-65s admitted to hospital for flu, vaccination in the current and any of the three previous years was associated with a 55 per cent lower chance of having a severe case, a 65 per cent lower chance of being admitted to intensive care and a 56 per cent lower chance of death than in those who had only had the one jab, reported the Canadian Medical Association Journal.‘This past week’s flu figures underline why it makes sense for NHS staff who haven’t yet had the flu jab now to do so. 

'A proper discussion for next year about mandatory jabs ... would be sensible.’

Sir Bruce’s intervention comes after health chiefs called for doctors to switch to a new vaccine next winter after admitting the current jab is ineffective for over-75s. 

Last week NHS England wrote to all GPs saying they should adopt an injection used by other European countries for the last 20 years.

Some healthcare workers refuse to have the flu jab because they do not believe it is effective, while others are worried about the side effects. 

Imposing compulsory vaccines would prove hugely controversial and could breach human rights laws. 

Cambridge University Hospitals considered bringing in mandatory flu jabs in 2011 but stopped following legal advice.

NHS watchdog Nice is drawing up guidelines on increasing the uptake of the flu jab to be published at the end of the month. 

Figures have shown the number of patients admitted to hospital with flu has trebled in a week – and are twice as high compared to this time last year

It is not known if they will call for compulsory vaccinations.

But Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Government agency Public Health England, said: ‘We would welcome a debate about this ... Healthcare workers have an important role to play in protecting the health of the public.’ 

PHE figures show just 59 per cent of frontline staff have been vaccinated against flu. At some hospitals, only 34 per cent have received the jab.

Some vaccinations are already compulsory for certain staff. Surgeons must be immunised from hepatitis to stop them catching it and spreading it to patients.  

ONLY a handful of places remain uninfected by the deadly ‘Aussie flu’ virus.

Dorset, Ilford, Market Drayton, Telford and the City of London are the only places to have reported zero cases, according to website Flusurvey.org.uk. 

However, as the map relies on self-reported data from patients, the situation could be much worse. 

The NHS is braced for one of the worst flu seasons in 50 years after a surge in infections in the UK, with hotspots being Plymouth, Doncaster and Belfast.

Only a handful of places remain uninfected by the deadly ‘Aussie flu’ virus.

Dorset, Ilford, Market Drayton, Telford and the City of London are the only places to have reported zero cases, according to website Flusurvey.org.uk. 

However, as the map relies on self-reported data from patients, the situation could be much worse. 

The NHS is braced for one of the worst flu seasons in 50 years after a surge in infections in the UK, with hotspots being Plymouth, Doncaster and Belfast.  

Source: Dailymail