OXFORD’S hospitals have this week been rolling out their annual campaign to vaccinate staff against the flu.

Last year, however, nearly a third of staff at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) did not receive the vaccination.

This week bosses at the trust, which is currently around 450 nurses short, refused to confirm if measures would be taken to limit patient contact with staff members who had not had the vaccine as had previously been suggested in interviews given by former OUH medical director Tony Berendt.

The focus on getting staff vaccinated across the health and care services forms part of the 'winter plan' and aims to reduce the number of those becoming sick in the first place, thereby easing pressure on the already stretched health system.

Last winter A&E departments struggled to cope with the added demand exacerbated by a particularly bad flu season.

An OUH spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage all of our staff to get their flu jab, especially frontline staff working regularly with patients.

“While we make it as easy as possible for staff to have the flu vaccination, it is the decision of our staff members as individuals as to whether they decide to do so.

“Over recent years we have seen the vaccination rate increasing, and last year we achieved 70 percent which is higher than the national average.”

The flu is not the same as getting a cold - it can seriously affect someone’s health and the risks of developing complications are greater for people within the ‘at-risk’ groups such as the over 65s and those with medical conditions.

And with flu season just a few weeks away, health and social care services across the county have mounted their own campaigns to help protect staff and patients from catching flu.

Staff at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides physical, mental health and social care for people of all ages across Oxfordshire, is have this year created an online music video in an effort to encourage other staff members to take up the vaccine.

Director of Nursing and Clinical Standards at Oxford Health, Ros Alstead OBE said: “We’re encouraging our staff to protect our patients and each other by having their flu jabs.

“Many of our staff have theirs locally and our aim this year is to get better reporting as well as higher levels of vaccination to ensure we all stay well this winter.”

While Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) is urging its 8,500 staff employed in residential care, nursing homes or with registered domiciliary care providers across Oxfordshire to make having a free jab a key priority.

OCC's deputy director of Adult Services, Benedict Leigh, said: “Being proactive and getting immunised will mean fewer people contract flu and, as a result, that will mean fewer people becoming very sick and ending up in our hospitals."