Frontline staff could be moved in flu jab alert

Frontline staff could be moved to new locations if they've not had the flu jab
Frontline staff could be moved to new locations if they've not had the flu jab

Certain hospital staff in the borough could be redeployed if they have not had the flu vaccine.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust will be asking staff in high-risk areas whether they have had the injection.

That could lead to staff who have not been vaccinated having to work elsewhere.

It follows the NHS saying frontline staff who fail to get the vaccine will be forced to explain themselves and may be redeployed from wards.

They hope to achieve “near universal” coverage of frontline staff nationally this year after only about two-thirds (68.7 per cent) received the flu jab last winter.

The NHS wants to protect patients in higher-risk clinical environments, like neonatal intensive care and cancer wards, and limit their exposure to unvaccinated staff.

Pauline Law, the trust’s director of nursing and director of infection prevention and control, said: “In high risk areas, staff will be asked to confirm whether or not they have been vaccinated.

“This information will be held by the relevant team so that appropriate steps can be taken to maintain the overall safety of the service, including considering changing the deployment of staffing within clinical environments if that is compatible with maintaining the safe operation of the service. This will be assessed on an individual basis.”

In 2017, 74 per cent (2,197) of frontline staff at the trust running Wigan’s hospitals were vaccinated, plus 689 other members of staff.

Ms Law said: “We are actively encouraging as many of our staff as possible to have the flu vaccination as the virus can be contracted and transmitted by anybody.

“As health care workers we have a duty to ensure that we protect our patients, our own families, friends and colleagues and ourselves from the virus.

“We must always remember that quite a number of people can be at risk of becoming seriously ill should they catch the flu.”

The trust is working on initiatives offering reassurance and dispelling the myths surrounding the flu vaccine.

Prof Jane Cummings, chief nurse for England, recently said some “myths” persist around the vaccine, including among NHS workers, with the “big one” being that it gives people flu.

Ms Law said: “The flu vaccination cannot give you flu. It is impossible as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses.

“Side effects are mild or often non-existent and are usually a slight soreness around the site of the injection, occasionally aching muscles or slightly raised temperature for a day or two.

“Most people have no side effects whatsoever. Our priority is always to protect our patients and staff and, at this time of the year, one of the things we can do to achieve this is to ensure that as many of our staff as possible are vaccinated against the flu virus.”

NHS Wigan Borough CCG will not take the same stance when it comes to questioning staff about the vaccine.

Chairman Dr Tim Dalton said: “We strongly encourage all NHS staff, particularly those on the frontline who see and treat patients, to have the flu vaccination, which is offered to them free of charge, but it remains a personal choice for staff.

“Last year 70 per cent of all NHS frontline staff in Wigan borough made the choice to get themselves protected and we hope that even more staff will do so this year.

“NHS staff come in to contact with people who are already ill and are therefore more likely to catch the flu, so by choosing to get vaccinated, staff protect both themselves and their patients.”

Unison, which represents healthcare workers, said the NHS should encourage staff to get the flu jab, but not make it compulsory.

The flu vaccine will be available from early October.