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University freshers only have two weeks to get vaccinated against ‘deadly’ Meningitis W

The latest figures from Public Health England show cases of Meningitis W  have been increasing year-on-year.



influenza vacine

Student starting university in September are being urged to get vaccinated against Meningitis W.

Nurses are urging young people to get vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia before starting university in September as cases of deadly W strain continue to rise.

Nurses, who administer the combined MenACWY vaccine, have warned prospective students to make an appointment this month to give time for immunity to build before Freshers’ Week, traditionally held in mid-September.


Fresher are notoriously prone to infections as a multitude of strains of diseases come together.

What is Meningitis W?

According to the Meningitis Research Foundation, meningococcal infections have always been the leading cause of meningitis in the UK.

Cases of meningococcal W (MenW) have risen year on year since 2009 and the first quarter of 2018 alone saw 73 meningitis W cases.

MenW disease is particularly alarming because it is striking mainly healthy people across all age groups, with a marked spike amongst teenagers.

It often has different symptoms to other kinds of meningococcal disease and may present as severe respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, epiglottitis,  supraglottitis or gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting.

MenW can be harder to spot due to symptoms less traditionally associated with meningitis.

Students should see their GP.

Young people can get the vaccine at GP surgeries, often in a dedicated vaccination clinic with a shorter waiting list. It is available at any time of year but new university students are particularly at risk as they enter shared accommodation.

The latest official figures from Public Health England show up to two-thirds of those who turned 18 last year did not receive the jab.

It suggests more than 400,000 school leavers per year in England did not receive the new meningitis vaccine, introduced in 2015, which included protection against the increasingly common W strain for the first time.

School children who previously received the meningitis C vaccine will require the extra catch-up jab.

Freshers are more at risk.

Helen Donovan, Professional Lead for Public Health at the Royal College of Nursing and an expert on vaccination, said:  “Freshers starting university this September are more at risk from meningitis W, a particularly nasty strain that can kill, or leave people with life-changing disabilities.

“Vaccination offers protection against most strains of the disease, and it’s quick, easy and free, but they need to contact their GP in good time. The vaccine can take up to two weeks to become effective.

“Some may have been travelling over summer or working before university. But the risk is real and getting vaccinated saves lives. If you’re not sure you’ve had the vaccine, contact your surgery now and book an appointment with the practice nurse.”



One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.



Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.


While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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UCAS accused of having an ‘outdated’ view on nurses

They describe the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured.



Student Nurse Lecture Theatre

UCAS describes nurses as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has been accused of having an “outdated” view on nurses after it described the profession as providing “support to doctors and other medical staff”.

UCAS describes the nursing role to prospective students as looking after people when they are sick or injured. Adding; “You’ll provide support to doctors and other medical staff, take blood and urine samples, and in some cases, you may carry out minor surgical procedures.”


Nurses, alongside a multitude of other healthcare professionals, have taken to social media calling for the description to be amended so it “adequately reflects nursing in the 21st century”. They also criticised the article for failing to highlight a large number of health promotion and research roles frequently undertaken by the profession.

BJ Walto, a senior member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) commented that the description is “inaccurate, demeaning and totally misleading portrayal of nursing.”

Tom Wavlin, a Lecturer in Adult Nursing & Admissions Tutor at the University of Plymouth, suggested the description could instead read; “an autonomous practitioner of nursing who works closely with other healthcare professionals”.

In comparison, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) website reads; “Registered nurses play a vital role in providing, leading and coordinating care that is compassionate, evidence-based, and person-centred. They are accountable for their own actions and must be able to work autonomously, or as an equal partner with a range of other professionals, and in interdisciplinary teams.”

A spokesperson for UCAS said; “It’s clear that our current role profile for nurses doesn’t reflect the amazing work that nurses across the country do each day, and we welcome the feedback we’ve recently received.

“We want to make sure that students considering their future options have up-to date information about all different careers available to them.

“We’re currently updating all of our job profiles and are in touch with nursing experts to help us make sure that we better reflect the roles and responsibilities of nurses today.”

UPDATE (17/10/19 09:55): This article was updated to include a comment from UCAS.

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