NHS staff flu vaccination uptake reached a record level last winter but failed to meet NHS leaders’ ambition for 100% staff coverage, official data has shown.
Speaking before NHS England and NHS Improvement board meeting last week, NHS England national urgent and emergency care director Pauline Philip said that 70.3% of staff were vaccinated this winter against 68.7% the previous winter.
In the 2018/19 Finance and Operational Performance Report published last week, the NHS organisations said that ‘healthcare worker vaccination uptake levels achieved a record this year’.
Ms Philip said: ‘As far as vaccination levels are concerned, one of the things that we worked on earlier in the year was to try and increase the uptake as far as staff are concerned and there again we saw a better picture.
‘70.3% of our staff were vaccinated this winter against 68.7% the previous winter.
‘I think that all told, the picture across emergency care demonstrates that the work that has been done on transformation is really starting to pay dividends.’
However, the percentage still fell short of the ambition NHS chief executives set in September last year, when they sent a letter to trust and foundation trust chief executives stating their desire was ‘for 100% of healthcare workers with direct patient contact to be vaccinated’.
The letter also suggested that staff working in close contact with patients in high-risk environments might be redeployed to a different department should they refuse to get vaccinated.
Commenting on the figures, NHS Providers head of policy Amber Jabbal said: ‘NHS trusts will have done their best to achieve 100% vaccination uptake and frontline staff will already understand the important benefits of the flu vaccination to protect themselves and their patients.’
She acknowledged that it is positive that more staff received the vaccine last winter, ‘considering the impact flu cases had on the service in the previous year.’
She added: ‘There are reasons why staff members may choose not to take the vaccine, but trusts will continue to strive to make the flu vaccine accessible to as many staff as possible.’
Last year NHS England also decided to provide free vaccines to social care workers for the first time.