Flu vaccinations: should they become mandatory for NHS staff?

With flu cases on the rise, debate on mandatory vaccinations ‘inevtiable’, says NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh

With flu cases on the rise, debate on mandatory vaccinations ‘inevitable’, says NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh

Picture: Tim George


There should be a ‘serious debate’ about mandatory flu vaccinations for health staff next winter, according to NHS England’s national medical director.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said there is ‘massive variation’ in staff vaccination rates between hospitals.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggest that 59.3% of front-line healthcare workers were vaccinated by 30 November 2017, compared with 56% vaccinated by the same point the previous year.

But some trusts had vaccination rates of almost 85%, while others achieved less than 35%.

The number of cases of flu continues to rise across the UK and rates of patients being hospitalised are 2.5 times higher than last year, PHE says.


The organisation is urging eligible people, including healthcare staff, pregnant women and those over the age of 65, to get their vaccine.

Sir Bruce, writing on Twitter, said: ‘Vaccine still best protection for NHS staff and patients. I think a serious debate around mandatory flu vaccination is inevitable before next winter.’



Almost one third of flu cases are transmitted by people without symptoms, he wrote.

The RCN advises front line staff to have an annual flu vaccine to protect themselves and the people they care for.  The NMC has also urged nurses to be vaccinated.

A study from Imperial College London published last month found that improving NHS flu vaccination programmes can reduce staff sickness. 

Researchers found a clear relationship between vaccination rates and the rate of sickness absence, with a 10% increase in the vaccination rate associated with a 10% fall in sickness absence. 

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