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Date: 16 December 2017

Time: 13:03

Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

UHB ready for fierce flu fight

Story posted/last updated: 03 October 2017

UHB's annual flu vaccination campaign begins this Monday, 2 October, with staff across the Trust preparing to do the right thing and become flu fighters at a time when the NHS has been told to prepare for the worst outbreak of flu for years.

Many hospitals in Australia and New Zealand were reportedly unprepared to cope with the heavy flu outbreak that occurred this season, and it is expected that flu could put much more pressure than usual on the NHS this year as we move into the winter season, prompting the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, to issue a warning for all UK hospitals at a conference in September.

Reports suggest that almost double the amount of flu has been circulating in Australia this July and August - the country's core winter months - than the average over the previous five winters.

Speaking at a health conference, Simon Stevens said the flu season in the southern hemisphere was a pointer to the pressure that could build up in the NHS this winter - but said measures were being taken to ensure the NHS was prepared.

Mr Stevens said the "heavy flu season", leaving hospitals struggling to cope, should act as a warning to our health service and emphasise the need to get as many people as possible vaccinated: "For the next three to five months, the top priority for every NHS leader in every part of the NHS is ensuring that the NHS goes into winter in as strong a position as possible."

Whilst the influenza virus strain circulating in Australia may be different to the strains within the current vaccine, the World Health Organisation have decided the composition of this year's vaccine based on the evidence of flu cases available in London, Melbourne, Tokyo, Atlanta and Beijing.

During the 2016/17 flu vaccination campaign at UHB, over 76.5% of front-line staff were vaccinated against the flu, which saw the numbers of patients acquiring it in hospital fall, helping to reduce additional pressure on the system that would result from patients with flu complications.

Interim Chief Nurse at UHB, Michele Owen, said: "If we look at the winter in Australia and New Zealand, we're fortunate to have been given the warning this winter could see much more flu across our hospitals and amongst the wider public.

"To ensure we are prepared, amongst many of our other pressures, we must take action to protect ourselves, our patients and our families from the worst of winter.

"All ward-based staff, including  ward administrative staff, will be able to get the vaccine from the band 7 nurse on the ward - and each ward will have a dedicated supply of the vaccine. This will also be the format across the outpatients department.

"There are also a mix of drop-in vaccination clinics available for dedicated staff groups, and others that are open to all staff groups to maximise coverage.

"The Trust does have a target to vaccinate 75% of its front-line healthcare staff - this will help to ensure we can cope more effectively if a large scale breakout of flu occurs.

"All patients and carers should also take note of the potential for a heavier flu season by getting the vaccine for free via their GP or pharmacy if they are in an at risk group, are pregnant or are over 65 years of age.

"The flu strikes in winter, and it can be more serious than you think - so do the right thing and get your flu vaccine at the earliest opportunity."

For some people, flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and a spell in hospital. That's why, if you're over 65, are pregnant or you have any of the following conditions, you should ask your GP or pharmacist for your free flu jab to help protect you and your family:

  • Asthma
  • Heart disease or heart failure
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Neurological diseases
  • Asplenia

Don't put it off - get your jab for free from your GP or pharmacist and stay well this winter.

For further information on how you can stay well this winter, visit the NHS Choices website via the link below.

All UHB staff can find out when and where they can get their free flu jab by visiting the Trust's intranet homepage.

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