MPs urge mandatory flu vaccinations for health workers amid low take-up last year

MPs have called on the Government to consider mandatory flu vaccinations for some healthcare workers as it was revealed take-up is as low as 30% in some NHS hospital trusts.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee made the recommendation following last year’s increase in people being admitted to hospital with flu, the worst winter for the illness in a decade, according to NHS England.

The Flu Vaccination Programme in England report shows that in 2017/18, 68.7% of eligible healthcare workers took the vaccine, up from 50.6% two years previously.

Last winter, as many as 4,000 beds each day could have been used by flu patients, and at the peak, as many as 500 flu patients were being admitted each week, according to NHS Improvement.

The committee’s report said: “The Government should undertake a review to establish whether flu vaccination should be mandatory for certain categories of healthcare workers.”

It added: “Despite the 2017/18 season having the highest flu vaccination uptake ever in healthcare workers, significant variation remains.

“Some hospital trusts only achieved 30 to 40% uptake whereas others achieved over 90%.”

However, uptake is much lower among other frontline health professions, and varies widely across hospital trusts.

Vaccination rates are thought to be particularly low among social care workers.

The committee called on the Government to pay particular attention to uptake among social care workers.

The report said: “One area where we were particularly concerned was vaccine uptake among social care workers.

“Surveys undertaken by Public Health England have had both poor response rates and have shown poor vaccine uptake results.

“We believe it as much a professional duty for frontline staff working in the social care sector to be vaccinated as it is for healthcare workers.

“There should be an expectation of full coverage amongst staff working with individuals who are most at risk from serious illness from flu.”

NHS England said last month that all frontline staff will be expected to get a flu vaccination this year as part of their winter plan.

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer at NHS England, said: “NHS staff did a remarkable job last winter as the health service faced a perfect storm of flu, stomach bugs and unusually severe weather.

“By getting vaccinated against flu, healthcare workers can protect themselves, their families, colleagues and patients, making sure we have a healthy workforce and helping to reduce the pressure on services over winter.”

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