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    Tuesday, 31 July 2018 15:31
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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
  Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead...
Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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A Resized Vaccinateion Image cbOctober 18 2017

The public are being advised of the availability of free flu vaccinations in a coordinated campaign to help increase vaccine uptake and ease winter pressures. Health professionals are also being reminded of their professional obligation to consider being vaccinated if dealing with members of the public.

 Public Health England is promoting the free vaccination at the start of the ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign. Working with NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Department of Health, PHE has announced a number of measures. “Intensified preparations” include:

  • providing free flu vaccines for hundreds of thousands of care home staff at a cost of up to £10m as well as increasing the number of jabs for young children in schools and vulnerable people;
  • directing NHS trusts to ensure they make vaccines readily available to staff and record why those who choose to opt out of the programme do so;
  • writing to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers reminding them of their professional duty to protect patients by being vaccinated;
  • setting up a new National Emergency Pressure Panel to provide independent clinical advice on system risk and an appropriate regional and national response.

Around 6.3 million people under 65 in England have a long-term health condition and are more at risk of suffering potentially fatal complications from flu, said PHE. In Scotland, the flu vaccination campaign is targeting 1.8 million people, urging them to get their flu vaccine as early as possible.

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s Medical Director, said: “This year we are offering the nasal spray vaccine to more children than ever. Ensuring children get vaccinated is extremely important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop then spreading it to vulnerable groups they come in to contact with. For someone with a long-term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious.

“We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.”

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Dr Keith Ridge, has written a letter to encourage pharmacy teams in direct contact with the public to be vaccinated against influenza this winter. PSNC has published the letter it received from Dr Ridge, which points out: “The General Pharmaceutical Council advises pharmacy professionals providing key healthcare services, and often dealing with patients directly, to consider getting vaccinated and to encourage their staff to get vaccinated as well. By being immunised, pharmacy teams help protect not only themselves and their families, but also the individuals they come into contact with.”

Commenting on the letter, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC said: “Based on the experience of health services in Australia and New Zealand, this winter is likely to see very high levels of flu, which will put a significant strain on the whole of the NHS, including community pharmacy teams.

“Offering pharmacy staff a vaccination will help protect them and others, and will hopefully play a part in helping contractors to maintain an effective pharmacy service during the challenging months ahead.”

Care home workers are being added to the list of people eligible for NHS flu vaccination. PSNC has said it is “discussing the arrangements to amend the community pharmacy flu vaccination service to include this new target group with NHS England’s central team; this will require minor amendments to the service specification and the national Patient Group Direction.

“We will provide further information on updates to the service documentation as soon as possible; pharmacy contractors cannot vaccinate care home staff under the NHS Community Pharmacy Flu Vaccination Advanced Service until updated documentation is published by NHS England.”

The charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK said it has received some queries recently about the flu vaccine and whether people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – are eligible for it.

“It is recommended that people with IBD have the flu vaccine to reduce the risks of them getting the virus. This is regardless of whether or not you are taking steroids, immunosuppressant or biological drugs,” said the charity.

“IBD teams will also recommend that children with IBD have a regular flu injection; however, the nasal spray flu vaccine which is available for younger children is not recommended for those taking immunosuppressants or with weakened immune systems. This is because it contains the live forms of modified flu virus, but it should still be possible to have the inactivated injectable flu vaccine. It is best to check with your child’s IBD team whether it would be more suitable for them to have the nasal spray, or the injectable vaccine.”

Links:
PHE announcement        
NHS England announcement       
Scottish Government statement                
PSNC statement on care home workers   
PSNC flu vaccination reminder letter       
CMO letter to PSNC         
Crohn’s & Colitis UK statement  

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