NHS pharmacists have been urged to remember their “shared professional responsibility” to protect patients and get vaccinated against seasonal flu. The move follows rising numbers of patients becoming seriously ill and hospitalised with the virus in recent weeks.
In a letter signed by leading clinicians, all NHS staff have been asked to “play their part” in protecting public health.
The letter says: “Substantial levels of seasonal influenza have placed further strain on primary and secondary care. As flu is unpredictable, it is not possible to know when levels will peak this season and we are writing for your support in reducing flu levels to help address the challenge this poses to the health system. Getting vaccinated is one of the simplest ways of protecting yourself, your patients and your family from flu.”
The letter was signed by Public Health England (PHE) medical director, Paul Cosford, England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, NHS England’s medical director Bruce Keogh and NHS England chief nursing officer Jane Cummings.
PHE figures published on 11 January 2018 showed there had been a 78% increase in the GP consultation rate with flu-like illness that week. Hospitalisations of patients with flu had risen by 50%, and there had been a 65% increase in the flu intensive care admission rate.
Across the NHS, it is believed 59% of all staff have had the seasonal flu vaccine this winter, but in some hospital trusts less than three in 10 staff are thought to be protected.
PHE said the main flu strains currently circulating continue to be flu A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and Flu B. The A(H3N2) strain particularly affects older, more vulnerable age groups. It also stressed the importance of good hand hygiene to limit the spread of germs and transmission of flu.