Wales politics

Concern over 'low uptake' of NHS staff having flu jab

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Media captionMake sure NHS staff do not get ill, says Dr Dai Lloyd

Less than half of frontline NHS staff had the flu jab last year, according to a report.

AMs on the assembly's health committee were left "concerned" that just 46% of staff were vaccinated in 2015-16.

Their report said vaccinating front-line staff was a key preventative measure and chairman Dai Lloyd called for more to be done to ensure staff "do not get ill in the first place".

Public Health Wales said the jab uptake was the highest it has been in Wales.

Nicola Meredith, lead nurse for flu in the vaccine preventable disease programme at Public Health Wales, said: "The annual flu vaccine is recommended for all frontline health and social care workers in Wales to help protect them from catching and spreading the infection."

She said the uptake of the vaccine in NHS workers has been increasing each year and that for 2015-16 it was the highest yet.

"As well as frontline staff, it's also really important for people more at risk of developing complications of flu to get the vaccine, such as pregnant women, those aged 65 and over, and people with long term health conditions," she added.

"In 2015-16, more people in these groups than ever had the flu vaccine."

Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: "Up to one in four frontline health care staff may become infected by flu every winter, even in a mild season.

"We are acutely aware that this is individual choice and cannot be mandated.

"However, it is nurses' responsibility to keep themselves as fit as possible so that they do not put patients at risk and we would urge our members to have the flu jab."

Image copyright NHS Wales
Image caption Posters in pharmacies and GP surgeries urge people to get flu jabs

The committee's report also suggested the NHS would be better able to deal with winter pressures if it could deal with difficulties throughout the year.

It argued a more resilient NHS all-year round was the best way to cope with increased pressure on services.

AMs said efforts made around winter tended to focus more on "fire-fighting" than changing the whole system.

"It is clear from the evidence we heard that the many pressures facing the NHS in Wales are not restricted to a particular period or season but are, in fact, all year round," said Dr Lloyd.

"Nevertheless, it is also clear that there are seasonal spikes in demand, especially during the winter months, which put an already stretched system under further strain."

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it was "encouraged" by the recommendations of the health committee's report.

"The bottom line is that more care needs to be delivered in the community by GPs, pharmacists and urgent care centres," said its Wales officer, Dr Mair Parry.

An extra £50m is being made available for NHS Wales by the Welsh Government to deal with winter pressures on hospitals.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We welcome the committee's report and will consider their findings in due course but firmly believe the extensive local and national preparation that has been put in place will deliver robust, resilient services so that people have access to the care they require, when they need it."

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