Mandatory flu vaccinations for staff should be considered, says England's chief medical officer

England's chief medical officer has added her voice to calls for a debate on whether flu vaccinations should be mandatory for front-line health staff

England's chief medical officer has added her voice to calls for a debate on whether flu vaccinations should be mandatory for front-line health staff.

Dame Sally Davies said NHS England should consider making immunisation mandatory for staff, citing data that shows that increasing vaccinations by 10% leads to reducing staff absences by 10%.

Picture: Tim George

Her words follow those of NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh who called for a ‘serious debate’ about mandatory flu vaccinations for health staff next winter.

Asked if the vaccination should be made compulsory for staff, Dame Sally said: 'I welcome anything that increases vaccination rates of healthcare staff, because we have this duty of care to protect our patients.

'If that raises rates, then I'm happy with it.'

Divided readers

Opinion is divided among Nursing Standard readers on whether flu vaccinations should be made mandatory for front-line health staff.

Nearly 250 readers responded to our story about Sir Bruce's comments on Twitter about staff vaccinations.

He pointed to ‘massive variation’ in staff vaccination rates between hospitals amid a rise in flu-related hospital admissions in England.

Data from Public Health England suggests 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 while some trusts had vaccination rates of almost 85%, others achieved less than 35%.

'Mandatory debate'

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

The RCN advises front-line staff to have an annual flu vaccine to protect themselves and the people they care for.

Comments on the Nursing Standard Facebook page included: ‘Forcing someone to have the flu vaccination against their will is unethical to say the least.’

Another posted: ‘Nurses have to wash their hands to stop spread of infection, so the flu jab is the same.’

Meanwhile, more than 60 consultants in charge of emergency departments in acute hospitals across England and Wales have written a letter to the prime minister urging her to take urgent action to prevent situations where some patients are dying prematurely in corridors.  

They call for a 'significant increase' in social care funding to allow patients who are fit to be discharged, and a review of the number of hospital beds that are available for acute care.

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