Nurses need to make their own decision on whether to have flu vaccination

The high number of flu cases this winter has prompted a call for flu vaccination to be made compulsory for healthcare staff, an issue that is bound to be controversial

This year’s winter crisis in the NHS has been exacerbated by the high number of people struck down by flu.

The 2017-18 version seems particularly virulent, causing an increase in the number of hospital admissions and adding to the workload of community nursing teams.

Figures released by Public Health England reveal that hospital admissions related to flu are 2.5 times higher than at the same point last year. It is reasonable to assume that similar rates apply across the rest of the UK.

In this context Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, called for a debate on making the flu vaccination compulsory for nurses, healthcare assistants and other health service staff who come into direct contact with patients and the public.

‘My body, my rights’

Nursing Standard columnist and legal expert Marc Cornock says in an article on the subject that registrants should be mindful that the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code requires nurses and midwives to ensure patient safety.

Comments on our Facebook page and website suggest professional opinion is divided on the issue. The prevailing view is summarised by Tom Walvin, who wrote: ‘I'll have the flu vaccination because I understand the need for it and want to protect those around me. I don't want the flu vaccination if I’m forced to have it, on principle. My body, my rights.’

Making the flu vaccination compulsory would undoubtedly be contentious, and could be the subject of legal challenge from those who object. As Mr Cornock says, for the time being, nurses need to weigh up the information available and make a decision, based on their circumstances, about whether it is rational to have or refuse to have the vaccination.

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