Healthcare staff who refuse the influenza vaccine could be 'redeployed'

Healthcare staff who refuse the seasonal influenza vaccine could be 'redeployed' to work in other areas.

Hospital staff who work with 'high-risk' patients and refuse to have the seasonal influenza vaccine could be moved to work in other areas this winter to protect patient safety.

According to NHS Improvement; “staff who decide not to be vaccinated to explain the reason, so that the organisation can use the information to support greater compliance”.

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Adding; “In hospital departments where patients have lower immunity and are most at risk of flu, it may be appropriate for those who choose not to be vaccinated to be redeployed to other areas where this promotes the overall safety of patients.”

Staff who refuse the vaccine will be asked to complete an 'opt-out' form asking for their reasoning. The regulator does not specify what would happen in cases where staff are unable to receive the vaccine due to medical reasons.

Ensuring 'near universal' uptake of the vaccine.

NHS England and NHS Improvement has a plan to ensure 'near universal’ uptake of the seasonal influenza vaccine by front-line staff. This may not be limited to just Doctors and Nurses but all members of staff who direct contact with those deemed 'high-risk'.

Last winter only 68.7% of frontline NHS staff received the vaccine. But this figure demonstrates an upward trend in uptake. The seasonal influenza vaccine will also be offered to staff working in social care who have direct contact with members of the public.

In November 2016, NHS England published the Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) scheme for the next two financial years which sees NHS trust in England financially rewarded 'an increased flu vaccination uptake rate'.

'A perfect storm of flu and stomach bugs'.

NHS Improvement's review of last winter found that the NHS faced “a perfect storm of flu, stomach bugs and unusually severe weather” which lead to the Government suspending all non-urgent care and temporarily removing the financial penalties associated with the 4-hour A&E target.

Record numbers of patients waited longer for care because hospitals, despite unprecedented planning, were unable to cope.

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said; “Demand for treatment is rising relentlessly, staff vacancies are at record levels and after a difficult summer staff have been working at full tilt without a break".

Redeployment of staff.

The Royal College of Nursing admits that while it is important to ensure staff are offered the vaccine, the redeployment of staff will carry its own risks.

Tom Sandford, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: “All healthcare staff should ideally get the flu vaccine. Some boast uptake levels of more than 90% without recourse to measures such as redeployment. We believe increasing vaccination coverage among staff is predominantly about education and availability. Redeploying staff carries its own risks, and we need to understand how employers will manage this.”

Prof Jane Cummings, NHS England’s Chief Nursing Officer, said; “By getting vaccinated against flu, healthcare workers can protect themselves, their families, colleagues and patients, making sure we have a healthy workforce and helping to reduce the pressure on services over winter".

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